This complex and intriguing drama chronicles--with some probable narrative liberties--the chain of events that instigated the provocative Profumo affair, the infamous cold war scandal that toppled Britain's conservative go... more »vernment in the early 1960s. John Hurt stars as charming osteopath Stephen Ward, who grooms a malleable and beautiful teen showgirl, Christine Keeler (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer), to party with his swinging high-society friends. Trouble starts brewing when Christine becomes simultaneously entangled with both a Russian diplomat and a British cabinet minister. Once the media learn of her sexual escapades, the reigning Conservative Party comes under fire and begins seeking a scapegoat to distract the public from the dangerous political implications that the affairs represent. Under Michael Caton-Jones's confident direction, the film generates sympathy for its decadent lead characters, and it intelligently explores how private personal matters become vulgar public affairs when political machinations intrude. The most intriguing aspect of Scandal is the platonic love affair between Keeler and Ward amid the trials and tribulations of their stormy relationship--think of it as a twisted variation on My Fair Lady. The fine cast also includes Ian McKellan as John Profumo and Bridget Fonda as Christine's partner-in-fun Mandy Rice-Davies. The uncut DVD version features a little more skin than the R-rated release, although viewers will probably wonder why those few extra shots caused such a stir. --Bryan Reesman« less
"My comments are not aimed at the merits of this fine film but at the recent DVD release by Anchor Bay. The cover boasts that the version it contains is "uncut & uncensored"; however, that claim is false. Inexplicably missing is the entire "nightgown" scene with Bridget Fonda, which should appear just after the orgy. I'm pretty sure that this scene appears in every other version of the movie. I'm almost certain it was in the R-rated general release, I know it is in the "uncut" VHS tape, and part of it even appears in the broadcast televsion version. In fact, watching the censored TV cut of that segment on BBC America a month or so ago is what inspired me to order the DVD in the first place. Now I just feel ripped off. This is not the first time I've purchased DVDs that were missing key scenes, but this instance was particularly galling."
Well-crafted piece of film and yet tragic at the same time
tepp | 07/27/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Without covering much the same territory that others have in their reviews, I can only say that "Scandal" is an excellent example of how politics, power, weakness and self-interest can corrupt, destroy and even end lives. The death of Dr. Stephen Ward in 1963 was tragic in that the powers that be, namely the police, Profumo and the Conservatives, Christine Keeler, the media, and ultimately the legal system in Britian made sure that he would take the blame for the actions of others that he played a part in, but by no means was fully responsible for. Ward never had a chance to defend himself from the beginning hence his decision to committ suicide and whose funeral no one attended. It portrays a side to British society IMO that I think many would prefer to forget and where the class system served to protect those on its higher ladders at the expense of those not as fortunate. Since when is a British lord, cabinet minister or any member of the aristocracy above reproach? "Scandal" shows us just how unfair life really is. BTW, the theme song for "Scandal" performed by Dusty Springfield was called "Nothing Has Been Proven" and is available on her "Reputation and Rarities" CD available through Amazon.com"
A "Scandal" to miss this one.
Andy Billington | Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia | 07/02/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Based on a true event of 1963, the "Profumo" affair scandal is one the classic sex scandals of British political history, of which, as you would know, there are many.The story is one of great intrigue showing how one man's weakness and lust for the seedier side of the fairer sex, and another man's weakness, his desire to mix with the higher echelons of society, embroils them both into a downward spiral of self destruction, which in itself is indeed quite a story. But when it also compromises and in fact instigates the downfall of an entire government, and a British CONSERVATIVE Government at that; now add to it a complex web of vices including sex, drugs, alcohol, debauchery, infidelity, betrayal and treason! well you have the makings of a simply excellent movie. John Hurt's acting as "scapegoat" Dr. Stephen Ward is first class, as are the roles of Ian Mckellan as the ill-fated John Profumo and Leslie Phillips as the aloof Lord Astor. Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, Bridget Fonda, Britt Ekland give superb performances depicting precisely the trends and fashions of England's mid 60s. The theme music "Scandal", sung by the timlessly talented Dusty Springfield, was released as a single and made the charts without hesitation. Add to the story a high ranking Russian, a snipit of the "highly respected" British Aristocracy, some excellent shots of London life and a stately mansion deep in England's green and pleasant land, and you have a highly entertaining, "no holds barred" account of a real piece of British political history, the kind that britons would rather you didn't know about!It's been more years than I care to remember since I went to the "flicks" to see this movie, I truly can not wait to put this video into my machine, get a couple of cans, get my feet up and enjoy it all over again. Buy it! you won't be disappointed."
The war minister, the model, and the Russian spy.
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 07/26/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In terms of pop culture, 1963 was a good year for the UK, as that's when the Beatles first exploded on the scene. For Harold Macmillan and the Conservative Party, it was the opposite, as a scandal involving Russian spies, his Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, and two callgirls named Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, led to the collapse of his government in October due to the national security issues. However, of the two girls, Keeler was crucified by the press and ended up in obscurity, while Rice-Davies made it big, even appearing in the movie Absolute Beginners. And the man who introduced Keeler to Profumo, Stephen Ward, became the scapegoat of the whole affair and committed suicide. Scandal tells of the rise and fall of the three central characters: Keeler, Profumo, and Ward.
After a brief shot of Keeler being mobbed and manhandled by journalists following her testimony at court, the movie takes the viewer back to 1959, when Keeler was a dancer in a revue at a West End club, wearing all sorts of daring costumes. It's there that she catches Ward's highly-trained eye. It takes looks or money to enter the privileged world of the elite, and to Ward, and given her looks, Keeler is a racehorse. He promises to introduce her to all sorts of important people, but that she needs to be wild, liberated. The two share the same apartment and a special relationship grows between them. Ward is quite the libertine, saying that the "trouble with everyone is they're too ashamed to enjoy themselves." However, he is seen by others to be vain, shallow, and empty-headed.
Keeler is introduced to Eugene, a Soviet naval attache, and in a very sexy moment at Lord Astor's mansion, to Profumo, who is quite taken by her. He's quite the shy soul, and at first, he just talks with her. Later, well, the rest is history. But she finds herself stifled, preferring men her own age instead of the older men Ward introduces her to. She complains "You pull the strings. I'm what you make me."
As for Mandy, she ends up working at the same club as Keeler, and at first the two butt heads. Mandy though upstages Keeler during a sizzling dance number where they are wearing Native American feathers and costumes, with the loss of her top apparently not hindering her. The two become friends later on.
It's amusing to hear Profumo's address to the House of Commons regarding Keeler. Initially he says there was no impropriety whatsoever. Fast forward to another politician, an American president no less, who said "I did not have relations with that woman." Hmm....
The scenes that caused a ballyhoo during its release isn't as explicit as all that, unless one counts the scene of a client being turned on by Christine and Mandy together before he ends up joining them--other than that, nothing beyond softcore.
Joanne Whalley-Kilmer radiates a sizzling cuteness as Christine Keeler. She's quite expressive, from those winning smiles to the tearful looks of heartbreak when she is forced to betray her mentor. Bridget Fonda's Rice-Davies isn't a warm or appealing character. John Hurt (Stephen Ward) radiates an aura of excitement and self-destructive behaviour in one of his best roles yet, with Ian McKellan (yes, Gandalf himself) doing quite well as the shy yet doomed Profumo.
And the guy who plays Johnny, the Jamaican lover of Keeler who is later described as a "lovesick jungle bunny," is none other than Roland Gift, lead singer of the Fine Young Cannibals. Was it Whalley-Kilmer he was thinking of when he sang "She Drives Me Crazy?"
The fact that Macmillan and Profumo got honours later on shows how forgiving the UK could be. But it's also interesting how a scandal can affect one's successors. Sir Alec-Douglas Home inherited the scandals and problems of Macmillan and lost to Harold Wilson's Labour Party a year later, the same way Gerald Ford lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976 due to his associations with Nixon and inheriting the high inflation of his predecessor.
One wonders if Keeler wasn't exactly chuffed to be reminded of an episode in her life she'd rather forget, but if Scandal shows that she became a victim and object of scorn, then it has served its purpose."
THE BITTERSWEET COMPLEXITIES OF THE HUMAN HEART
Shashank Tripathi | Gadabout | 07/24/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Scandal's theme is both universal (the peccadilloes of men waking up in wrong beds) and political (covert tensions between governments hinged on a political scandal) but it provokes a startling human dimension while maintaining an even keel in a note of sympathy for its characters, and indignance for the hypocricy of the toffs among which they had to thrive.
The plot is based on an actual turn of events, harking back to a notorious scandal of misconduct in the ranks of the British government a few decades ago. Our linchpin is Stephen Ward, a bon vivant whose sole aim in life was to drift in the right circles by finding young girls to groom and convert, and then introducing them to the reflected glow of his aristocratic chums.
If his innocuously misguided orchestrations for rolling in "high society" were unsavory, the film minces no words that parties on either side of the bargain never really complained until they had their faces slapped on the front pages of news dailies. All of this comes to a tumbling end when one of the girls, Ms. Keeler, is exposed because of an unfortunate two-timing between a British Cabinet official and a Russian agent. There is a suggestion of romantic tension between this character and Ward, which is quite interesting.
It was my first time to see the actress who plays Keeler but she struck a fabulous balance in the paradox of her character: radiantly innocent on one hand, but amorous with an abandon on the other, believing there to be little difference between sleeping with powerful men and a stranger whom she called boyfriend.
Therein lies the beauty of this film. Behind its (inevitably) smoldering sauciness, it is surprisingly wise about the complexity of the human heart. The saddest moment in the movie comes in the final courtroom scene, when Keeler is called as a witness and ruthlessly hammered by the prosecutor's questions, until Ward flails his arms from the defendant's box and cries "That is not fair!" Which quite aptly sums up the wail of this riveting film."