B&W, 1964, 90 mins. 19 secs.
Directed by Michael Winner
Starring Oliver Reed, Jane Merrow, Barbara Ferris, Harry Andrews, Julia Foster, David Hemmings
Indicator (UK RB HD), VCI (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)
Better known to American audiences as The Girl-Getters thanks to its AIP release two years after its U.K. debut, The System was one of the earlier features from the divisive English director Michael Winner, who was just coming off of the underrated crime film West 11 and would make more of a splash soon after with two subsequent films, I'll Never Forget What's'isname and The Jokers, both starring this film's leading man, Oliver Reed. Now Winner is best known for his colorful, politically outspoken TV personality and his iconic action films like Death Wish and The Mechanic as well as lurid offerings like The Sentinel and Scream for Help. However, this is a reminder of his more down to earth roots when he proved he could do kitchen sink realism with the best of them-- especially with the secret weapon of cinematographer Nicolas Roeg (in between Masque of the Red Death and Fahrenheit 451), who was about to become a major director in his own right.
In the seaside town of Roxham, summer is quickly drawing to a close and an aimless band of young men is out looking for thrills. Their leader, Tinker (Reed), has worked up a system by which he uses the pretense of taking photographs of women in the area, using info about them so he and his buddies can conveniently wind up in social settings with them later and talk them into bed. The goal is to get a different woman each week, but Tinker finds his system thrown into disarray when he aims for well-off model Nicola (Hands of the Ripper's Merrow), who is far from naive and exposes a flaw in his technique.
Fairly easy to find on home video over the years in various editions from Odeon, Kino, and other companies since the VHS era, this is still a fairly neglected film considering the heaps of attention lavished on many of its peers. That situation could change with the worldwide Blu-ray premiere from Indicator, which goes a long way to giving this film the context and respect it deserves as both an early Winner effort and a valuable snapshot of a very specific period in youth culture. The transfer itself is a huge leap over what we've had before with excellent black levels and impressive detail without tampering with the original rough-hewn texture of the original cinematography. The original X certificate BBFC card is also retained at the beginning, a nice touch. The mono LPCM English audio (with optional English SDH subtitles) sounds very good considering the very limited nature of the original track. A new audio commentary with film historians Thirza Wakefield and Melanie Williams is a brisk, informative and thorough dissection of the film both in terms of its place in British cinema before and after and in the context of the output of the twentysomething Winner, who jumped on this after an aborted attempt to do a project with The Beatles. A new interview with Merrow, "Getting the Girl" (17m52s), starts off with her accidental entry into acting doing backstage work and explains how she ended up starring in this film early in her screen career, with particularly high praise of Roeg and, not surprisingly, some mixed feelings about the hard-drinking Reed. Similarly, actor John Porter-Davison calls the experience wild and completely booze sodden in "Drinking and Dancing" (5m39s) to such an extent it's a wonder he's still alive, and actor Jeremy Burnham focuses more on Winner in "Fun and Games" (3m50s) for a brief reminiscence about the tennis scene. Finally the disc closes out with an image gallery of 23 stills and promotional items, and "Haunted England" (23m31s), a really enjoyable 1961 color travelogue by Winner with David Jacobs narrating a silly tour of supernatural encounters around the English countryside through the centuries involving the Devil's Chair, spectral false teeth, and much more. The 3,000-unit limited edition also comes with the expected hefty insert booklet featuring liner notes by Andy Miller, samples from Winner's autobiography, sample critical reactions from the original release, and Vic Pratt notes on the short film.
Reviewed on October 5, 2019.