I woke up, neck stiff, head heavy, and my stomach groaning. The paint on my nails was chipped. The will, or patience, I usually have to place in my contacts lost the night before. And I’m left with the vignettes of my group touring across state lines, and drinking, and laughing. My shirt was still damp with sweat, clinging to the scent of burnt sage from that clairvoyant attempting to read me, and who later growled when her boyfriend and I attempted to smoke her smudging stick (for purification reasons only, obviously). And I chuckle. Slumped over the edge of my bed, ten ‘til noon, just woken, rubbing the back of my neck, I chuckle and say to myself, “The Party’s Over,”.
My mind in the faint gleams of remembrance drifted to one of my favourite obscure arthouse flicks from the ’60s, The Party’s Over, starring Oliver Reed, Clifford David, Katherine Woodville, & Louise Sorel.
When I say 60’s, I mean 60’s. This film was shot in 1962, but was shelved due to censorship-related issues until 1965 when it was released in the UK and later in the US in 66’. The Censorship issues lead the producers Peter O’Toole and Jack Hawkins (both of Lawrence of Arabia fame) to have their names removed in protest. The objectional material the boards of decency on both sides of the pond had? We’ll get to that later on.
The positives of this movie; incredibly well acted, when you get Oliver Reed, you get Oliver Reed. It’s shot perfectly with an almost documentarian-like detachment that highlights the superficiality of the experiences felt by the main cast. The writing, be it in the 60s or today, is eloquent and believable to that of the gutter-dwelled pseudo-philosophers left in the crumbled ruins of a decadent empire looking over the precipice into its inevitable decay. Et-hem… sorry, threw me into this review again. The negatives are few and technical. With a small budget certain props; a body tossed off a building is a dummy and some scenes are a bit rougher indicating the footage suffered damage during its three-year stint on the shelf.
The Party’s Over starts at this happening party where a gang of beatniks are rousing about; this is where we meet our party goers: Moise, the head of the crew and most self-loathing played by Ollie Reed, Melina, the American heiress running from her future done by Louise Sorel, Nina, and last Melina’s flat-mate and most headstrong of the crew. Moise demonstrates his self-destructive and attention-seeking nature by drunkenly jumping out of the second story of the building after Melina calls him out. He survives, gripping a nearby tree and safely swinging down. The crew take the party to the streets and tour London at night.
On the other side of the Pond, we meet the American(s), Carson (played by Cliff David) and Ben. Carson is Melina’s American fiancé and an executive at Ben’s, her father, company. Ben is sending his soon-to-be son-in-law to London to pick up his spoiled brat who has severed all ties (Carson included). The rest of the movie is a cat and mouse chase between pubs, cafés, parties, and art galleries between Carson and Melina, Carson being given the run around by the beatniks who attack his squarish mannerisms, all except for Nina who seems to take a shine to the American and tries to make his visit at least slightly pleasant. The chase goes on, Carson having given up on Melina in a romantic sense merely wants to at least bring home some information for her worried father. With no information to speak of Melina’s father, Ben, decides to fly down and handle it himself. After chastising Carson for his ineptitude, he takes on the investigation getting the same runaround.
Carson now presumably with Nina asks for Moise to tell where Malina is to rid themselves of Ben, and still with his massive ego Moise goes on my favourite rant in any movie, drifting in and out of accents, interweaving French and English as theatrically as possible. Leaving Carson annoyed and retorting with, “it never stops does it?” the 60’s version of ‘OK Boomer.’ The group is less playful in their antics and more frustrated. All have with un air sombre. The despair is felt throughout the gang and this leads to a lesser character, Phillip, being so bombarded with the guilt he jumps to his death. Shaking everyone up, finally, Moise and Carson have a true conversation.
In comes, the controversy forcing the three-year censorship of The Party’s Over; the reason for the gloom that drove Philip to suicide was his accidental tryst with necrophilia. During a party the troupe had at an art studio the night before avoiding Carson’s search, Melina on the second level with Moise rebuffed his advances and drunkenly stumbled away, falling to her death. Thought to be blacked out drunk the rest of the partygoers swarm her, stealing her clothes and Phillip stole a kill (among other things). Moise in the rafters with the studio owner Tutzi look on in horror concerned about the outcome. Phillip at the realization runs off, and the rest thinking it is a joke have a faux funeral burying her in the gutter. She’s brought to the county morgue where Ben found her and forgives Carson.
Since the revelation of Melina’s demise, Moise has revelled in the idea of telling Ben the truth, but when the moment arises he can’t bring himself to it. Avoiding responsibility, he shakes Ben’s hand and tells him that he’s sorry for the loss. The Party’s Over ends with Moise walking away from the gang with his girlfriend, hating himself even more. Hating himself for the loss, his hand in it, and the knowledge of his cowardice, with a glint that he may finally grow up.