Overlooked & Underseen: Deep End (1970)
I don’t even remember how I first heard about Deep End; it must have been someone on Twitter. To that person, I’m eternally grateful because the film has become one of my favorites over the past couple of years. If you describe a film to me with the words “London”, “bathhouse”, “hot”, “Jane Asher”, “teenage boy”, and “obsession”, I’m probably going to want to watch it. Now, that might not be how that lovely Twitter person initially got me interested in watching it. Truth be told, it was probably my own investigation into the film and discovering a photo of John Moulder Brown that sold me on it. But, you’re not as shallow as me, so, please, let me talk a little bit about the film and, hopefully, you’ll want to see it, too.
Deep End is about 15-year-old Mike (the aforementioned gorgeous John Moulder Brown). When the film begins, he’s just out of school and has been hired for his first job, a bathhouse/swimming pool attendant. His trainer into this glamorous world is Susan (the gorgeous Jane Asher). Sparks fly between these two from the start as she starts to show him the ropes. He would be in charge of the male clientele; she, of the female. Susan explains, winkingly, that they would be able to make tips by exchanging clientele. At first, he isn’t sure exactly what this means until Diana Dors is unleashed upon him (you might never look at football the same after witnessing this encounter).
Over the course of the film, Mike’s infatuation with Susan turns to love and then obsession. Susan, for her part, shows him attention, but she, like the bathwater, runs alternately hot and cold. One minute she encourages him by letting him fondle her while she is at the movie with her fiancé. The next, she’s having him arrested for the exact same incident. Women and former girlfriends are throwing themselves at Mike, but he turns them all down in hopes of winning Susan over. His naiveté is both sweet and sad. His behavior becomes more and more destructive as the movie progresses, culminating in an act that is as desperate and spontaneous as it is violent and disastrous.
Jane Asher and John Moulder Brown are fantastic together. They have genuine chemistry. Skolimowski allowed the two to improvise and it shows. I don’t mean that as a slight; they seem very natural together. They appear on screen as if a real 15-year-old kid was trying to hit on, and failing miserably, with a hot, older girl. I think Asher gets dismissed as just being Paul McCartney’s one-time girlfriend, but she’s been acting since she was a child and she is fabulous in Deep End (plus, see her fantastic turn in Roger Corman’s Poe adaptation, The Masque of the Red Death).
This film just looks so good. This counts my third viewing of the film. This time I spent a lot of time taking in all the gorgeousness Skolimowski has on offer. His use of texture is fantastic. There is a scene, near the end, where the two characters are lying on a bed of towels and sheets that are placed in such a way to foreshadow an underwater swirling effect seen later in the film. The director’s attention to detail is amazing. The costumes in this film are excellent. Jane Asher’s wardrobe is to die for. Everything she wears is stellar: from her knee-high boots to her floor-length, yellow, vinyl raincoat. I want it all.
Deep End might start out like a typical bawdy British sex comedy, but as the film progresses, it becomes something much, much more. It becomes darker, desperate and, in the end, tragic. The film is available on Blu-ray from BFI Flipside.