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  Squeeze, The Drunk In Charge
Year: 1977
Director: Michael Apted
Stars: Stacy Keach, David Hemmings, Edward Fox, Stephen Boyd, Carol White, Freddie Starr, Hilary Gasson, Rod Beacham, Stewart Harwood, Alan Ford, Roy Marsden, Leon Greene, Maureen Sweeney, Lucinda Duckett, Alison Portes, Keith Miles, Pamela Brighton
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jim Naboth (Stacy Keach) is an alcoholic, and on taking a late night tumble down an escalator after a semi-conscious London Underground journey he is rushed to hospital for detox. He is reluctant to go through with this treatment to say the least, but while he is there he meets a nurse, Barbara (Hilary Gasson) who looks as if she might be good for him, and they arrange to meet again once he's released. In the meantime, his best friend Teddy (Freddie Starr) manfully tries to help him through his addiction, which isn't easy when the pressure of work begins to take its toll.

Well, Jim did insist on pursuing his private detective line, a hangover of a different sort from his old job as police detective from which he was sacked for being repeatedly drunk. He lost his wife Jill (Carol White) to another man, Foreman (Edward Fox), and although he has custody of their two sons you cannot imagine them staying with him for long when social services are concerned. To make matters worse, he is sustaining himself by drinking "fortified wine", sherry basically, which he doesn't think counts as the hard stuff, one of many details in The Squeeze which offered it that particular seedy but oddly convincing atmosphere.

Now it's mostly forgotten, but there was a time when The Squeeze was spoken of in the same breath by those in the know as Get Carter and The Long Good Friday, and if watching it now you see why it wasn't able to sustain that reputation you can also perceive a genuine quality there which makes it unfortunate that if it is known at all these days it would be for rare showings on late night television down the years which have made many a night owl sit up and wonder why they'd never heard of this grim, strangely humorous, yet almost humane thriller. Keach, if he struggled a little with the English accent, made for a convincing drunk and was willing to go the distance for his role here, even with a full frontal nude scene it's difficult to view as more pathetic or funny.

Jim is one of those good men who life has brought low thanks to the predominance of downright villains in this world, although you could argue he only had himself to blame given he chooses to spend his time around them in his shaky investigations. The main one of which he is dragged into for the purposes of this tale when his ex-wife and her daughter with Foreman are kidnapped, and he barges into his house demanding to know where they are. Jim pleads innocence, but wants to help, so Foreman recruits him to get them back from Keith (David Hemmings, solidly sleazy) and his gang for his boss, Vic (Stephen Boyd in one of his final roles - he died suddenly the year this was made).

Vic wants to persuade bank manager Foreman to allow him to steal a million from his security van, but this is easier said than done, especially when the gang learn Jim is on the case, and they blackmail the manager into murdering the private eye. But it's not good to underestimate Jim, for he escapes that fate and works out a way to play dead all the better to stop Vic and the boys in their tracks. Then again, the investigator is not exactly reliable either, as we see Jill and the girl spend far too long with the gang as they begin to take sexual advantage of his ex (The Stylistics will never sound the same again) out of boredom, and if that were not bad enough Jim spends the night before the big rescue in a stupor among down and outs when his nerve falters. The Squeeze was an intriguing mix of cheap paperback brought to life (it was based on a novel) and more sensitive character business, and for that reason it was a qualified success, not quite classic, but with curios like Starr impressing in a serious role the cult following was perfectly reasonable. Music, which sounds like low rent Pink Floyd, by David Hentschel.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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