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  Touchables, The Under The Dome
Year: 1968
Director: Robert Freeman
Stars: Judy Huxtable, Ester Anderson, Marilyn Rickard, Kathy Simmonds, David Anthony, James Villiers, Ricki Starr, Harry Baird, Michael Chow, Roy Davies, William Dexter, Bruno Elrington, Peter Gordeno, Danny Lynch, John Ronane, Simon Williams, Bryan Walsh
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Thriller, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: What could be better than a party in a wax museum, especially one displaying the most up-to-date celebrities and luminaries of the day? The guests are certainly enjoying themselves, but among them are four interlopers, a gaggle of beautiful women who have plans of their own; once the celebrations have dwindled and those partygoers have headed home, the girls sneak in and steal the Michael Caine dummy, escorting it from the premises and out into the car park where one of their number places it in the back seat, leaving the other three yelling after her to come back and take them with her. But they have set their sights higher than facsimile celebrities: how about the genuine article?

The Touchables, not a spoof of the gang busting television series The Untouchables it should be noted, is one of the movies most held up as a perfect example of mod cinema, that is the films of the nineteen-sixties that were enraptured with the style of the era, its proponents priding themselves on their impeccable dress sense above all, not to mention a predilection for cappuccinos and scooters thanks to the identification of Italian culture as the apex of cool. What it did not necessarily lend itself to was a great British movie, for the cinema of that time was more interested in Swinging Sixties chic, Carnaby Street and all that, than it was devoted to one particular aspect; just as there were not rockers films flooding the market, their great rivals the mods were not best catered for.

When you saw the quality of this little item, you would only agree that while it looked very fine thanks to director Robert Freeman’s experience with photography (he was The Beatles’ album cover shutterbug of choice for some years), dramatically or even comically, it sank like a stone. What storyline there was concerned the trouble our four largely interchangeable heroines get into when they opt to kidnap a pop star called Christian (David Anthony, a celebrity who never really was) and take him back to their house in the country, all the better to have their wicked way with him. As these ladies are not unattractive, it would seem to be more of a male fantasy than a female one, and sure enough it was all men in the scripting team.

But that team included Donald Cammell, and though his work was rewritten by popular scribe of the day Ian La Frenais, you could discern something of his directorial debut Performance if you looked closely enough, mostly that undercutting of the nature of pop and rock stardom in the situation Christian finds himself in. There is a dark side as he eventually tires of his kidnappers’ company and tries to escape, which has dire consequences, but what most would remember about The Touchables would not especially be the cast, though the foursome were played by Judy Huxtable (wife of Peter Cook for a few years) and Ester Anderson, with Marilyn Rickard and Kathy Simmonds in support, who whether by accident or design summed up the mod girl look (you had to imagine design was very much part of this).

Nope, what you’d recall would be that country house, because it was in effect a huge, clear plastic dome, nothing to do with The Simpsons Movie or a certain Stephen King novel, it was smaller than that, but a presumably very hot in summer construction that Christian is kept in as if he were an ornament, initially tied to a bed, though later allowed table tennis and trampolining, not to mention the obvious stylistic choice of pinball. Meanwhile, as this begins to resemble some hazy consumer satire, difficult to pin down as that was, outside gangsters are looking for the star, led by James Villiers (not the most sinister of performers) and tied in with the professional wrestling circuit, as American grappler Ricki Starr appears as himself, and gets to do his ballet dancing he-man act, though it was strapping Harry Baird who had the most to do in respect to the plot. Even so, the effect of watching what amounted to a collection of artistes fumbling hopelessly for a point was hard to recommend unless you loved the era – the original Nirvana provided the theme song, for instance.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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