Repulsion and The Ruling Class

Repulsion (1965) **** Director Roman Polanski, in a delicious homage to Alfred Hitchcock, concocted a genuinely creepy thriller about a beautiful, repressed young woman (played to perfection by the elegant Catherine Deneuve, in one of her first films)who has been left alone in her apartment for a weekend while her sister is away. For the normal person, having the savvy to survive a weekend alone is a simple task; for the childlike Carol, however, it’s the gateway to a descent into utter madness. Footsteps in a hallway induce paranoia in poor Carol, and despite the attempts of a possible suitor, she becomes more and more afraid and, ultimately, violent.

What makes this movie scary is Polanski’s magnificent, minimalistic use of lighting and effects. As a result, the viewer feels as if he or she is in the room with Carol, and that he or she is feeling what she is feeling. This is no simple feat; almost all of the current horror directors out there will compensate for not being able to get into the minds of their protagonists by overemphasizing special effects. To me, the scariest, creepiest movies are the ones that are the most real – the ones that make you feel as if this situation could conceivably happen to you. And this is where Polanski succeeded. I would very highly recommend this movie to anyone who appreciates scary movies for being scary, rather than for being hidden under a thick mask of gore and screams.

The Ruling Class (1972) ***1/2 The Earl has just been found having hanged himself and wearing a white tutu. The closest heir is Jack (Peter O’Toole), who enters the castle and announces he’s actually Jesus Christ. The family plays along at first so that they may live off his money forever, but soon his ”act” wears thin – and they plot against him! Taut upper-class comedy gives us some very rich, well-defined characters. This isn’t the most functional family in the world – these people are downright nasty! With adultery, murder, and snobbery available in copious amounts, there’s hardly a limit to the comedic possibilities.

But this is clearly O’Toole’s show. His delivery of some very difficult – and very intelligent – lines made him worthy of an Oscar nomination. Remember him in The Lion in Winter as Henry II? Same regal arrogance, the kind of quality that will cause males to rise up in anger and females to swoon at his feet. Contrast O’Toole’s performance here with the one he presents in The Stunt Man. Different setting, different character, but both seem to think of themselves as The Almighty – or a reasonable facsimile. This is O’Toole at his finest.


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