Color, 1970, 90 mins. 7 secs.
Directed by John Krish
Starring Rod Taylor, Carol White, James Booth, Keith Barron, Clive Francis, Penelope Horner
Indicator (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)
Despite the title indicating a typical British '70s sex farce or a sci-fi mind control film, The Man Who Had Power Over Women seems to lacing at least a moderate amount of irony into its depiction of two male friends grappling with work and sex while manipulating each other for good measure. A troubled production and definitely not the comedy it's usually classified as in movie guides, the film was originally going to be helmed by Silvio Narizzano (Georgy Girl), who left just before shooting to do Loot instead; the reins then fell to director John Krish, who had done Captured, several TV episodes and Children's Film Foundation productions but was most likely hired due to his 1968 counterculture satire, Decline and Fall... of a Birdwatcher. Both of these Krish films have appeared off and on via television broadcasts over the years, with video releases around for the really dedicated if they felt so inclined. The 2023 Indicator Blu-ray of The Man Who Had Power Over Women marks a first for the label as it's availably only directly from the label and not via any other retailer; it's also an excellent crash course in the career of Krish, an interesting figure through several phases of British movie and TV production.
A particularly sordid-looking Rod Taylor (The Birds, The Time Machine) stars here as Peter Reaney, a hard-drinking Australian talent agent living in London and trying to extricate himself from an unhappy marriage to Angela (Horner). Fellow rep and best friend Val Pringle (Booth, seen with Taylor the same year in the sadly neglected Darker Than Amber) is also in a failing marriage, in his case to Jody (Poor Cow's White). Both men have their hands full handling bratty pop star Barry Black (Francis from A Clockwork Orange and Villain), whose inconsiderate treatment of women becomes especially stark when he gets one young fan pregnant. Peter's situation becomes even more complicated when he finally breaks off his marriage for good and, seemingly endorsed to some extent by both of the spouses, starts an affair with Val. Can this total train wreck of a human being eventually get it together, and who else will be taken out in the process?
Produced by Avco Embassy after languishing at Paramount for a while, this is a fascinating snapshot of a transitional period in both British culture and movie-making with the usual '60s mod trappings still hanging on in somewhat mutated form here. A sturdy actor as always, Taylor manages to make his unpalatable character at least interesting to watch as he navigates the deeply compromised nature of the music business with his big client clearly representing the worst aspects of youth culture. That means the film itself is essentially geared at older viewers perplexed by all these changing rules involving sex, drugs, rock music, and social protest going around, a pattern that's continued in every single generation since then and only grown more stark after the prevalence of social media. As usual there are some quick flashes of nudity here and there to keep up with the times, but it isn't a particularly sexy film; it's more bizarre than anything, climaxing with one of the least dignified death scenes ever committed to celluloid for one significant character. Outside of Taylor, the rest of the cast is good as well with stalwarts White and Booth doing top-notch work as always.
Indicator's U.K. and U.S. limited edition Blu-ray release is a real stunner if you've only ever encountered this one on its TV airings or via its scarce VHS appearances, with a new 4K restoration supplied by Studiocanal bringing out those wild costumes in their semi-psychedelic glory. It looks a lot like those striking, blazing HD restorations done by Sony for films from this era, which is a good thing. The LPCM English 1.0 mono track is also in perfect shape, with "new and improved" English SDH subtitles provided (presumably improving on broadcast TV captions). "The BEHP Interview with John Krish" is an archival audio recording of the director in conversation with Rodney Giesler, made as part of the British Entertainment History Project fusing together conversations in 1994 (two different sessions) and 2004. There's a ton of material here running as a track under the entire film, starting with the director's unhappy childhood in wartime and attraction to the art before moving through his various gigs in the entertainment industry on his way up to becoming a feature director. In "A Bad Marriage" (10m29s), screenwriter Allan Scott (Don't Look Now) looks back at the process of creating the script with writing partner Chris Bryant and explains the extensive changes implemented on the film (via Krish mandated by American producer Judd Bernard) that caused the pair to remove their names from the final product. He also notes his confusion over the film's title, feeling it should have reflected the marital fractures instead. Krish's earlier work is represented with two short film starting with 1956's Break-In (43m41s), an educational film for the British Army depicting the training process for the military police (with a very young Jim Dale in what might be his debut). Shot in moody black-and-white, it's structured as a crime procedural and showcases the economical narrative style that would make the director valuable in television. 1961's Let My People Go (23m35s) is a fascinating, very ahead of its time look at Apartheid in South Africa, essentially using a cinematic scalpel to lay out how the supposedly neighborly system was in fact a racist, brutal atrocity. A 21-image gallery of posters and stills is also included, while the package comes with the usual packed 40-page booklet featuring a new essay by Vic Pratt, archival interviews with Taylor and Krish, new pieces about both shorts, and film credits.
Reviewed on January 12, 2024.