ON DVD & BLU-RAY
Take a Girl Like You (1970) Blu Ray (Indicator)
A girl like Hayley
Hayley Mills plays Jenny Bunn, a charming young lady from Northern England who relocates to a town “down South” where she lodges with a Labour Party councillor named Dick Thompson (John Bird) and his ever-nagging wife, Martha (Sheila Hancock). She soon catches the eye of several local men, the most notable of them being a graphic design lecturer named Patrick (Oliver Reed).
He quickly makes a move by inviting her out on a dinner date. However, complications soon arise; while he fully subscribes to the sexually-liberated mindset of this period, she is firmly set on saving herself for the right man.
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Lightweight and dated
Take a Girl Like You opens up with a title sequence similar to the hit Georgy Girl (1966) which runs over establishing shots of its central female character while a catchy pop theme plays in the background - albeit with the earlier film’s black-and-white cinematography replaced by bright Eastmancolor hues. However, while it shares a vaguely similar Swinging Sixties milieu, it lacks the same wit or flair which might have offset its hopelessly dated attitudes.
This is a very lightweight and insubstantial comedy where the narrative basically runs around endlessly in circles: Oliver Reed’s character attempts to get into Hayley Mills’s character’s pants, she rebuffs him, she is then drawn back to him because she actually deep-down finds him attractive, rinse and repeat ad nauseam. There are minor laughs here and there but not many: tellingly, the best joke is a brief visual gag involving a manually-operated roadwork stop sign. The central premise, which tries to milk humour from men attempting to pressure and manipulate the central female protagonist into having sex with them, just comes across as being outright creepy and rapey when viewed through the prism of the #MeToo generation.
On the plus side, the two main actors give better performances than the material frankly deserves. Mills’s mix of unassuming charm and (when called for) plucky assertiveness is immensely likeable. Oliver Reed displays the usual blend of roguishness and charisma which became his stock and trade over the years.
The supporting cast is a mixed bag. Sheila Hancock and John Bird are solid enough as the bickering middle-aged couple whom Jenny lodges with, as is Noel Harrison (Rex Harrison’s son) playing a tastelessly pretentious nouveau riche type. However, Ronald Lacey (best known for his later role as the villainous Arnold Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark) affects an awful come-and-go Scottish accent as Patrick’s hapless best friend, Graham. Aimi MacDonald has been saddled with a one-note air-headed blonde stereotype role as a television personality who puts the moves on Patrick. If anything, however, Geraldine Sherman’s turn as the kind of lazily-written hippie type who drops words like “groovy” into every other sentence is even more cringeworthy. At one point, she even spouts the line “I once made a trippy salad in Marrakech”. Really? Penelope Keith (who became a household name in Britain due to her central roles in numerous popular TV sitcoms such as The Good Life and To the Manor Born) also pops up in one scene.
All in all, Take a Girl Like You is pretty awkward stuff and only really worth seeing for pure nostalgia value and/or if you are a fan of its two main stars.
Runtime: 98 mins
Dir: Jonathan Miller
Script: George Melly, based on a novel by Kingsley Amis
Starring: Hayley Mills, Oliver Reed, Noel Harrison, John Bird, Sheila Hancock, Aimi MacDonald, Geraldine Sherman, Penelope Keith
Blu Ray Audio-Visual
The colours are beautiful and richly nostalgic here, the soundtrack warm and vibrant.
A New Era Revisited
This interview with actress Hayley Mills is well worth a watch. She talks about her working relationships with the other actors. Oliver Reed, for instance, preferred spontaneity over rehearsals - something which worked well in her scenes with him as it enabled her to look convincingly ill at ease. She also addresses the film’s dated attitudes in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Now and Then: Jonathan Miller
This 42-minute interview with the film’s director was conducted by Canadian broadcaster Bernard Braden in 1967 as part of an uncompleted project. As such, the footage comes complete with clapper boards opening takes. The discussion has nothing to do with Take a Girl Like You but, nonetheless, is genuinely engrossing as Jonathan gives us his unorthodox but well thought out opinions on the subjects of censorship, imposed morality and preventative imprisonment.
Make a Film Like You
Production Manager Denis Johnson Jr. and Assistant Director Joe Marks talk about their experiences working on the film. They reveal that they suspected producer Hal E. Chester of procuring the film’s financing from the mafia. Apparently, he helped himself to several items which were used in the production including a sports car.
The extras are finished off by two trailers, an image gallery and a collector’s booklet.
Take a Girl Like You is almost toe-curlingly dated but the extras offer some redemption.