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A Severed Head

This is a very upper-class and intellectually snobbish film about 'civilized copulation'. It's based on Iris Murdoch's novel (subsequently dramatized by Murdoch and J.B. Priestley).

This is a very upper-class and intellectually snobbish film about ‘civilized copulation’. It’s based on Iris Murdoch’s novel (subsequently dramatized by Murdoch and J.B. Priestley).

It’s the writing, direction (by Dick Clement) and acting that gives it stylish panache. The mattress merry-go-round has a great game of musical chairs among its cast. Ian Holm plays Martin Lynch-Gibbon, a wine taster, with a mistress played by Jennie Linden. Holm’s wife (Lee Remick), a predatory nympho, is having an affair with her husband’s best friend, psychologist Richard Attenborough, who is also sexually involved with his sister, Claire Bloom (‘She’s only my half sister,’ he explains apologetically, but with little conviction).

Cast, all round, is very good, with Holm, the fall guy, excellent. Attenborough gives the psychiatrist a nicely humored pomposity, and Clive Revill, as Holm’s sculptor brother, brings his usual breeziness to one of the few extrovert roles.

On the distaff side Remick makes the least impact, at times becoming tediously fluffy. Linden is strong and loving as the mistress who’s shuffled around like a pawn and Bloom scores heavily as the menacing, enigmatic egghead.

A Severed Head

UK

  • Production: Winkast. Director Dick Clement; Producer Alan Ladd Jr; Screenplay Frederic Raphael; Camera Austin Dempster; Editor Peter Weatherley; Music Stanley Myers; Art Director Richard Macdonald
  • Crew: (Color) Extract of a review from 1971. Running time: 98 MIN.
  • With: Lee Remick Richard Attenborough Ian Holm Claire Bloom Jennie Linden Clive Revill
  • Music By: