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Thursday, May 29, 2014

THE MIND BENDERS (1963)

After VICTIM/’61, their critically acclaimed homosexual blackmail thriller, was rejected by the film-going hoi polloi, Basil Dearden, Michael Relph & Dirk Bogarde (director, producer & star) did penance, of a sort, with this ludicrous pseudo-scientific thriller on sensory deprivation & mind control. It opens decently, like an episode of Twilight Zone made by Hammer Films, as a zoned-out Oxford Prof steps out of a moving train, dying under suspicion with a briefcase full of cash. But then the inquiry starts up with John Clements investigator goading Dirk Bogarde into repeating the deceased professor’s dangerous isolation experiment to prove whether the dead man had turned-traitor selling secrets to ‘the enemy’ or had merely turned 'zombie' with a ‘bendable’ mind after treatment. Sounds like it might be nutty enough to play, but the test designed for Dirk plants a seed of jealousy against his pregnant wife, Mary Ure, and all we can do is wait for the inevitable green-eyed monster to show up. (Didn’t Dearden just make a contempo OTHELLO in ALL NIGHT LONG/’62?) It hardly matters, halfway in, you'll know just how the sensory deprivation volunteers felt.

DOUBLE-BILL: Sensory deprivation addicts will need to see Ken Russell’s ALTERED STATES/’80, taken from the Paddy Chayefsky novel. And ‘taken’ is the word since Chayefsky, who also did the original script, loathed the final result and disowned the film.

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