Tonight’s Viewing – The Offence (1973)

Directed by – Sidney Lumet

Starring – Sean Connery, Trevor Howard, Vivien Merchant, Ian Bannen, Peter Bowles

Story by – John Hopkins

Happy 90th birthday to Sir Sean Connery. I had no idea about that until my brother told me a few hours ago. It’s strange that I suddenly had the urge to watch three of his films in the same week and it turns out that the last one is on his birthday, and what a way to finish the triple bill.

Getting this X-rated film made was one of Connery’s conditions in returning as Bond one last time (if only it had been his last time!) in Diamonds are Forever. He has been impressed by John Hopkins’ stage play This Story of Yours and had asked him to work up a screenplay for it. He also enlisted the help of Sidney Lumet in taking on directorial duties. Ian Bannen, who had worked with Connery and Lumet on 1965’s The Hill took on a major role, as did Trevor Howard and Vivien Merchant.

The story centres around Detective Sergeant Johnson (Connery), a twenty-year veteran of the Police who has seen too much horror and has been pushed to the breaking point by it. After a string of sexual assaults on young girls, a suspect is brought in and an ‘over the edge’ Johnson beats him to death during an interview. The details of the interview are revealed through flashbacks during his subsequent conversations with his wife and Detective Superintendent Cartwright (Trevor Howard).

offence 1

 

The Offence was filmed in less than a month at Twickenham film studios (just down the road from me, and in Bracknell, Berkshire. The Police Station in the film is actually Bracknell library. Despite rave reviews and a low budget, the film was a commercial failure and failed to make a profit at the box office.

 

The Offence is not an easy watch. It’s brutal and unrelenting and offers no consolation or redemption for anyone involved. The images that play in Johnson’s head give a wonderful insight into just how unhinged he has become and Connery does wonderful work bringing this to life.

Indeed the brilliance of this film is in every gloomy, bleak frame. The score by composer Harrison Bertwistle (his only film work) is eerie and forbidding, the cinematography cuts effortlessly from bleak to dark to the stark revelation of fluorescent lighting. There are repeated visual cues that build throughout as Johnson’s psyche is laid bare. Really though, this is all about Connery. He is magnificent in this tole; tormentor and tormented rolled up into one, mind shattered and pasted together clumsily with tape that can’t hope to hold together indefinitely. He is assisted brilliantly by Ian Bannen as Baxter, the suspect, whose guilt is left ambiguous. The confrontation between the two is a tour de force and deserves a lot more attention than it gets.

offence 2

What a great film. I can’t really add anything more. Superb. Check it out, but be prepared for a difficult, challenging watch.

Here’s the trailer… (contains images that are unsuitable for children)

Thanks for reading.

You can check out some of my other film-related posts by clicking on the links below.

Richard

Tonight’s Viewing – The Hill (1965)

Tonight’s Viewing – Children of Dune (2003)

Tonight’s Viewing – Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)

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