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Prick Up Your Ears
Prick Up Your Ears
Actors: Gary Oldman, Alfred Molina, Vanessa Redgrave, Frances Barber, Janet Dale
Director: Stephen Frears
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
R     2004     1hr 51min

Gary Oldman (Hannibal) and Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2) star in this stunning true story about a long-term love affair that ends with a shocking murder-suicide. Told in "sizzling flashbacks and forwards" (Elle), this Golde...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Gary Oldman, Alfred Molina, Vanessa Redgrave, Frances Barber, Janet Dale
Director: Stephen Frears
Creators: Oliver Stapleton, Mick Audsley, Andrew Brown, Alan Bennett, John Lahr
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Gay & Lesbian, Drama
Studio: MGM Home Entertainment
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 06/15/2004
Original Release Date: 05/08/1987
Theatrical Release Date: 05/08/1987
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 51min
Screens: Color,Full Screen,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

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Movie Reviews

A Major Achievement in Film Biography and 'Period Piece'
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 09/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Stephen Frears continues to deliver extraordinary films (Dirty Pretty Things, The Grifters, Dangerous Liaisons, My Beautiful Launderette, Loving Walter, High Fidelity among others) and returning now to his 1987 PRICK UP YOUR EARS not only shows this excellent film aging well, but now it shows how keenly Frears is able to depict a period in time. Set in the 1960s, Frears bases his story on the biography of Joe Orton (British playwright whose plays included 'Entertaining Mr. Sloane' and 'Loot'). And while many other directors and screenwriters struggle with the format of "interviewing" people who knew the subject versus creating a novel/story based on bits and pieces of fact and fiction, Frears uses both these approaches with consummate skill. Joe (John) Orton (Gary Oldman in a definitive performance) was an openly gay playwright in a period of time in England when being gay was still punishable by imprisonment. His childhood in Leicester is explored (with Julie Walters amazingly fine as his weird mother) as he wishes to become an actor. He moves to London where he becomes involved with one Kenneth Halliwell (Alfred Molina in a tour de force, over the top raging Queen role) and lives in an openly gay, albeit bizarre love/hate relationship. The two struggle to become established as actors and writers, but it is Orton who succeeds, only after a six month prison sentence for 'indecency' during which time he writes his first play. When Orton and Halliwell are released form prison, Orton's star ascends due in part to the wise counsel and friendship of Peggy Ramsey (Vanessa Redgrave in peak form). Halliwell ages (he is eight years Orton's senior), resents Orton's success not only with the theater and money, but with the near daily dalliances in toilets and lurid spaces where he seeks sex. The ending of the biography is well known and opens the film, so it is not inappropriate to say that Halliwell's mind is finally broken and he bludgeons Orton to death and then commits suicide. Only Orton's diaries are left to document his truly strange life. Given the content of the story, it may seem to some that this is a grisly tale and it might well have been in less capable hands. But with Frears' directorial gifts and absolutely first class performances by Oldman, Molina, Redgrave, Frances Barber, Julie Walters and the rest of the cast, this film finds humor, tenderness, meaningful insights into the artist's mind, and what life was like in England under the threat of a legal system that had changed little since Oscar Wilde's tragedy. The cinematography and music are excellent and the flavor of the 60s is captured completely. A splendid film, an excellent biography, and a most entertaining experience!"
Where's the Love? A Study of a Relationship Gone Wrong
vampilord | 07/05/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Although I have not seen an Orton play, or read the Orton diaries compiled and edited by John Lahr; or read Lahr's biographical work on Orton; or seen the West-End play based on the diaries, one thing is clear: Lahr made quite a sum for himself off another man's diaries! The film version of Orton's story brings the ill-fated Orton-Halliwell relationship not only to the screen but to our hearts, even to the hearts of viewers uninitiated/uninterested in British plays or gay sex.Such matters,while present in the movie,take a backseat to the central issue-- namely, the turbulent complexity of human relationships. The movie takes us from the early stages of a mutually beneficial, "body-for-brains" trade-off between young, awkward and talentless Orton, and older, articulate, and caustically witty Halliwell; through Orton's parasitic draining of Halliwell's witticisms and their "refurbishment" into what would eventually be hailed as the "Orton style". The film leads us through Orton's transformation from pussycat to tiger during a stint in prison, his subsequent meteoric rise to the top of West-End playbills as a playwright of sensationalistic,farcical comedies, leading to his emotional abandonment and outshining of his increasingly uptight/neurotic former mentor(whose chronic lack of social skills is played brilliantly here). Halliwell manages no career of his own, but only continues to supply his "friend" with more material in exchange for the privilege of tasting the limelight from the wings), a situation made even more unendurable by a blatantly (I would say punishing) promiscuity by Orton in the latrines and alleyways of London (details about which Orton purposely included in his "secret" diary, knowing full-well that Halliwell was reading them and "burning...") The movie does more than elicit sympathy for Halliwell and blame Orton: it exposes us to the agony of a mutually beneficial/destructive love-hate relationship. The pressure between the increasingly smug, sadistic Orton (suffering as he does from poor self-esteem)and the neurotic brooder Halliwell, builds up to quite a boil. The fact that this story is entirely true adds to its depressing pathos, as well as its efficacy as universal moral tale--don't use your lover as a stepping-stone. To fellow gay viewers, I would add that Oldman's steamy lip-lock with the hunky "pick-up guy" is alone worth the price of the tape."
A Commentary on a Modern Tragedy
vampilord | Nashua, NH USA | 05/16/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Oscar Wilde put it best: "In this world, there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, the other is getting it." Kenneth Halliwell, the lover and eventual murderer of Joe Orton (the British playwright of several popular comedies in the 60's) was a blueprint for success. However, never a believer in his own talents, he lived from one failure to another while experiencing success through the boy he mentored, educated, financially supported, and trained for world-renowned success. Why this movie is not on DVD, and as it even approaches VHS obscurity staggers the mind. The movie is a thriller, biography, and psychological study of two homosexuals, romantically bankrupt, yet entirely dependant on one another. A classic irony. As Orton's star rises after 16 years of struggling with a man eight years his senior, Halliwell's world and mind crack up all around him. Orton's ignorance of his lover's need to have the relationship as it was before Orton's success, drives Halliwell to destroy the mind that he himself helped create. After the brutal murder of his friend, Halliwell committed suicide with a note affixed to Orton's diary, which recorded the last six months of his life. The movie is based on this diary, as well as memoirs of friends, family, and colleagues. This adult movie spends more time than is requisite about Orton's gay fantasies and promiscuous lifestyle, even involving young boys. This might be an instant turn-off to some viewers, but if you can divorce the lifestyle from the man, you will be captivated by the spell that genius played in the two lives of these interesting people. Both Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina are at their best in this film, bringing a sometimes drifting script to abundant life."
Get this if you like good writing and exceptional acting
erickextoo | 06/03/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"At last. This film has been unavailable on VHS for a couple of years now. I seriously contemplated stealing the copy from my local video store but couldn't do it. The whole cast is superb. The story is extremely interesting and it's all true. Oldman is Joe Orton, the uninhibited English playwright who was the toast of the town in 60's London. Young and successful he lives life to its limits, hindered only by his mentor, lover and eventual murderer Kenneth, exceptionally portrayed by Alfred Molina (who has fallen far, now starring in a horrendous American sitcom called Ladies' Man). Their story is very engrossing. Vanessa Redgrave is the literary agent and this performance made her one of my fave female actors of all time. She's excellent. Get this movie!"