Goons in My Nightmare

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A poisoned apple didn’t kill Snow White; she got high and fell off a staircase. Dwarves didn’t place her body in a glass coffin; inebriated partygoers took her clothes off and paraded her down the street. Dirges and cigarette smoke blended toxic solemnity into the clownish funeral.

Speaking of funerals…Oliver Reed, may you rest in peace. And may heaven have a nice selection of pubs for you. This particular Englishman was a fine cinematic actor, and was the first person to make me feel romantically rejected when I was a young child (damn you, sexy Bill Sikes). In interviews, the actor liked to explain that he never went to drama school or took part in live theatre; he learned acting by going to pubs and studying the people who walked in. Pubs, according to him, functioned as his acting school. Sadly, his acting school is what ultimately did him in. Oh Ollie, you sexy souse.

The Party’s Over was released in 1965 after undergoing severe censorship (much to director Guy Hamilton’s dismay) and receiving an X rating from the BBFC. As soon as you see Oliver Reed in the opening scene, pouring booze on someone dangling from a balcony, you will never want him out of your sight. Although this movie has a morbidly appealing storyline, with true moments of sublimity, its dependence on the actor’s eerie charm implies the writing’s intrinsic weakness. My heart goes comatose during the scenes in which Ollie is nowhere near my screen; once a man such as Oliver Reed has brought mind-blowing electricity to a film, each minute without him will feel like the plague.

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Look at how all the other characters cannot take their eyes off him! Beautiful.

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Lying dead on the ground, fallen victim to a jazzy necrophilic spectacle, Melina looks like a chic Snow White. Problem is, those who were involved in the filmmaking never gave me a reason to care about her. All I know is that she is a rich little American girl who doesn’t like being a rich little American girl. The aesthetically memorable depiction of her death points not to the profundity of the character, but to art’s infatuation with the inanimate female body. The embalmed Snow White was put on display in a glass coffin, and Melina was put on display when her sinister friends undressed her, ravaged her, and mounted her body onto the roof of a car. She is the focal object with whom all the other characters are concerned, but I felt nothing more than transient artistic delight when I saw what happened to her. Throughout the film, the actress’s faraway gaze is meant to convey Melina’s torment; but mascara-laden eyes do not compensate for deficiency in character development.

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Regardless of my apathy towards the dead girl, the film always keeps me hooked with its music, elegant shot composition, and, of course, Oliver Reed. If Oliver Reed had not delivered a benumbing performance as Moise, a hoodlum who aggressively skulks after Melina “like a spook,” this film would occupy a much smaller space in my brain. Young Oliver Reed, with his angry unblinking eyes, masterfully nuances his degenerate character. While Moise appears to only stalk Melina with sexual predatory intentions, Ollie convinces us that the scumbag feels a deeper, more desperate need for her. His inexplicable reality is that she signifies a miracle. I wish I understood why he finds her so miraculous, but the film sends me plunging cluelessly into the rabbit hole of Oliver Reed’s soul. Not that I mind. It’s a very sexy rabbit hole.

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Melina apparently had been falling down her own ghoulish rabbit hole before falling off the stairs. At the final party, she dazedly laments that everybody is just another goon in her nightmare. “Everybody.” The film certainly gives a glimpse of Melina’s body when her friends are stripping her, but never gives even the slightest glimpse into what her nightmare is like. The camera most magnetically focuses on Oliver Reed’s intriguing portrayal of goonish grief.

The trouble with Melina is not that she is dead. The trouble is, she only matters to us because she matters to a troubled man. At least that troubled man happens to be Oliver Reed.

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