A Severed Head - A Severed Head( Blu Ray) [Powerhouse - 2019]Based on the 1961 Iris Murdoch novel of the same name, A Severed Head has a very misleading title. What sounds like it should be a horror movie is actually something quite different and unique. Whilst the film does have a darkness at its core it also incorporates elements of farce and satire to tell a tale of sexual permissiveness in middle class society. Influenced heavily by Max Ophüls 1950 classic of French cinema La Ronde, A Severed Head is a bizarre and wonderful film that twists and turns throughout.
Directed by Dick Clement of Auf Wiedersehen Pet fame, the film focuses on the life of Martin Lynch-Gibbon, a wine merchant played most ably by Bilbo Baggins himself, Ian Holm. Martin is married to Antonia, a shallow socialite played with great aplomb by actress Lee Remick, however Martin has a secret, he is having an affair with a beautiful young artist, Georgie (Jennie Linden). Antonia has been receiving psychiatric treatment from Martin’s friend Palmer Anderson (Richard Attenborough), and this relationship has progressed to something more. Antonia asks Martin for a divorce, but she and Palmer insist they would like to remain on good terms with Martin and don’t want to lose him from their lives, and when Palmer’s sister Dr Honor Klein (Claire Bloom) comes to stay, she makes sure both Antonia and Palmer know about Martin’s relationship with Georgie. This all sets up a fascinating and quite convoluted plot about incest and promiscuity among the middle classes.
What from the outside looks like a very typical movie of the period takes a turn for the weirder with a surreal and trippy dream sequence after Martin has been drinking heavily. Holm is superb in what is one of his earliest starring roles, whilst Attenborough is excellent as psychoanalyst, Anderson. Not to be outdone the ladies also pack a real punch, Lee Remick and Jennie Linden are excellent as Martin’s love interests, whilst Claire Bloom frequently steals the show as Dr Honor Klein. I think it also worth noting that there is an early blink and you’ll miss it cameo from Nerys Hughes as a nurse.
Overall, I found this to be an unusual and yet entertaining farce that pokes fun at the permissiveness of the age. The film has a typical stiff upper lip Britishness about it, and yet still manages to subvert this with ideas of promiscuity and incest. Looking at the disc itself, the picture quality is of a very high standard for a film of this vintage, the colours are very natural, and the image is crisp and clean with no visible print damage. There is a small selection of insightful bonus material featuring some interesting interviews as well as an audio commentary with director Dick Clement. Whilst the film is no classic, it is far from dull, and if I’m honest the myriad plot twists on their own, make it worthwhile investing in.Darren Charles