Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Serious Charge

It's a movie starring Anthony Quayle and also- well- we'll come to that in a moment. It was made in 1959. Bless the Talking Pictures channel for making it available.

So we're in the Britain of exactly 60 years ago. The TV is a tiny box in the corner of the room and the local policeman is a fat little bald-headed chap with very little to do apart from clip the privet that encloses the front garden of his police house. I remember this world.

The new vicar has a parallel career as a footballer- he plays for one of the big clubs (unthinkable today)- is a bachelor, a straight-up guy (formerly a chaplain with the parachute regiment) and for the purposes of the story essentially sexless- with no discernible carnal interest in man, woman or beast. By virtue of his office he's still a power in the land- on a par with the police and the magistracy- and it's acceptable for him to go knocking on people's doors laying down his version of the moral law- and by and large they'll take it from him.

Or at least the older generation will. The youngsters not so much. Some idolise him for his heroics on the football field but the local bad boy- who sleeps around, breaks windows and hangs out in coffee bars playing table football and listening to Cliff Richard on the juke box- is totally unimpressed.

We're worried about the upcoming generation. They don't subscribe to our values but maybe they'll come round. The vicar hopes so. The ageing virgin who's set her cap at him says he'll have to grab them quickly or his church and all the others will be empty in ten years time. Well, it took more than ten years, but she wasn't exactly wrong...

And here to complicate matters, playing the relatively virtuous brother of the principal bad boy, is the actual Cliff Richard. He sits in the coffee bar, fooling with the girls and singing along to his own voice on the juke box. We may be worried about the younger generation but they have money these days and we'd like to have them come and see our film. Therefore Cliff. He has no essential role in the plot- but he's pretty and he sings. He's still in his early mock-Elvis phase with the curled lip and all but there's a puppyish quality about him- and he's essentially harmless- as we were soon to find out.

The church has its place in the community, but no-one seems to know quite what it's for- unless it's to keep the worrying younger generation in line by means of youth clubs and such. The vicar is a decent sort of a cove- and an example to us all. He doesn't talk about God because that would be embarrassing. Instead he talks about how the Easter collection puts a smile on his face.

And then the principal bad boy, having been lectured by the vicar on his moral deficiencies, decides to turn the tables by accusing him of sexual assault. "Do you mean" asks the boy's angry father, "we have one of them down the vicarage?" Of course the vicar is entirely blameless and we'll make this film be about the sufferings of a falsely accused authority figure rather than go any deeper into the possibility that some of them might (just might, you understand) be interfering with their young charges.

I didn't watch to the end- I'd seen enough- but I gather the vicar- after some bad experiences is exonerated and the angry father takes his belt to the principal bad boy. You may have gathered I didn't like what I was seeing. Also it made me anxious because I was a vicar once myself and I remember the horror of the youth clubs and the social isolation, and the being surrounded by people who were clinging to a past I had no wish to cling to myself and the having to walk round dressed in a cloak of utterly spurious authority...
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