Entertaining Mr Sloane (1970) | Beryl Reid’s glorious grotesque makes this British black comedy worth a revisit

Entertaining_Mr_SloaneIn this 1970 screen adaptation of English playright Joe Orton’s subversive 1964 black comedy, drifter Mr Sloane (Peter McEnery) meets frumpy middle age spinster Kath (Beryl Reid) in a suburban London cemetery and accepts her offer to lodge with her and her elderly ‘Dadda’, Kemp (Alan Webb).

But while fending off Kath’s rather clumsy attempts at seduction, the young stud is taken under the protective wing of Kath’s closeted spiv brother Ed (Harry Andrews), who makes him his personal chauffeur, while Kemp is the only one who can see through the slippery charmer’s facade…

Outrageous, shocking, and packed with sexual innuendo, Orton’s parody on British family mores was a real eye-opener in conservative 1960s Britain, and marked the playwright as the ‘Naughty Young Man’ of the British stage. Following a TV adaptation in 1968, a screen version, written by Clive Exton (10 Rillington Place) became the feature debut of former documentary and commercials director Douglas Hickox, who’d go on to helm the cult 1973 black comedy horror, Theatre of Blood, starring Vincent Price.

Entertaining Mr Sloane (1970)

The film may look tame today, but its surreal Gothic Revival cemetery setting (it was filmed on location at Camberwell Old Cemetery in Honor Oak) and sterling performances make this Brit curio worth revisiting time and again – and its Beryl Reid who’s truly unforgettable. Her spinster Kath, minus false teeth and dressed in a baby doll nightie, is as outrageous a character as Alison Steadman’s Beverly in Abigail’s Party, and watching her seduce McEnery’s sexual menace while uttering Orton’s fruity dialogue is campy fun indeed.

The 2013 StudioCanal UK DVD release included a TV appearance of Joe Orton on The Eamon Andrews Show in 1967, filmed just four months before he was murdered by his lover Kenneth Halliwell at their Noel Road flat in Islington, North London.

• Beryl Reid also played the role of Kath on the London stage opposite Malcolm McDowell as Sloane and Ronald Fraser as Kemp in a 1975 revival of the play, while the subsequent touring production would see Barbara Windsor play Kath, and her Carry On co-star Kenneth Williams take on directing duties. Williams, of course, was best pals with Orton.

• The theme song was sung by Georgie Fame and was released as the B-side of the 1970 single Somebody Stole My Thunder.



About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on May 1, 2015, in British Film, Comedy, Cult classic, Must-See and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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