Color, 1970, 110 mins. 9 secs.
Directed by Jack Gold
Starring Nicol Williamson, Ann Bell, Lilita De Barros, Tom Kempinski, Kenneth Hendel, Douglas Wilmer, Barbara Ewing, Rachel Roberts
Indicator (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK R0 HD/PAL), Sony (DVD-R) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.75:1) (16:9)

The The Reckoningtransition from The Reckoningswinging London orgies and gritty domestic dramas in the '60s resulted in a strange period leading into the '70s, with tough crime films emerging as one of the more interesting trends to pop up in theaters. Part of that new, tougher spirit is The Reckoning, an early starring vehicle for incendiary theater actor Nicol Williamson hot on the heels of his breakthrough starring role in Tony Richardson's Hamlet.

As always Williamson is intense and a bit scary here as Malcolm Marler, whom we first see practicing his rough, not quite consensual bedroom manner that of course drives women wild, for some reason. He's a successful, up and coming sales exec in London with some serious rage issues he takes out on his colleagues and fellow drivers on the road, which we soon learn comes from his oppressive upbringing in Liverpool as part of a poor Irish family. He gets word that his father is in the hospital and drives back home to find him dead, apparently of a heart attack. However, it soon turns out that some local hooligans were responsible, and so, not unlike Hamlet, The Reckoninghe has to deliberate about his course of The Reckoningaction -- which involves lots of verbal insults, brawls, and tangles with several women.

A dark, deeply cynical film at heart, The Reckoning has a dim view of both small town and London life; the inhabitants of the former are shown as grotesque and ugly (check out that bingo/music hall sequence) and the latter is a cutthroat world where moral behavior will get you nowhere. It's fascinating to see how Malcolm adjusts his plan of action but not his temperament between the two, with a particularly amoral turn in the last act paving the way for some of the dark social satires that would come later in the decade. Virtually everything written about this film in the past couple of decades makes a comparison to the following year's Get Carter, which also focuses on a hardened Londoner finding difficulty adjusting to a trip back home, but the executions couldn't be more different. Shot in rich, dark, almost decayed colors, The Reckoning is essentially a character study with a little bit of crime around the edges; the ultimate journey doesn't go down that path, The Reckoninghowever, and it's a film that will likely take many unprepared viewers by surprise. The Reckoning

Virtually impossible to see for many years after its theatrical release from Columbia, The Reckoning gained a small but appreciable new wave of followers when it started popping up on Sony's HD movie channel and hit DVD-R from its on-demand line. The 2017 dual-format release from Indicator finally treats the film with the much-belated respect it's been needing, with the already fine Sony HD transfer looking especially impressive here with a presentation up to the studio's usual standards. Some shots involving opticals (like the opening titles and some dissolves) and a couple of harshly lit set ups against bright windows are compromised by the source material, but that's the way it is. The detail level is highly impressive-- which might not be a great thing when it comes to some of the most aesthetically repellent love scenes you'll witness in a vintage British film. The LPCM English mono track sounds solid with the most support given to the odd, frequently upbeat The Reckoningscore by Malcolm Arnold (The Bridge on the River Kwai). The video extras kick off with "Culture Clash: Matthew Sweet" (19m34s), an academic analysis of how this film descends from and reacts to the pivotal kitchen sink realism films of the prior decade, followed by the brief "Memories of Marler: Tom Kempinski" (3m8s) with the co-star and "On Your Marks: Joe Marks" (3m36s) with the film's second assistant director. The latter two essentially confirm that Williamson was brilliant but a very difficult, hot-tempered person. Also included are the theatrical trailer and a gallery of seventeen lobby cards and posters, while the limited first pressing also includes another superbly designed booklet with new liner notes by Michael Pattison and archival press coverage and reviews.

Reviewed on August 26, 2017.