Released in the U.K. in 1964, this little gem of a film is not only a vivid snapshot of the swinging sixties but a surprisingly frank and intelligent treatment of sexual gamesmanship and barely disguised class warfare.
More surprising is the fact that it is directed by Michael Winner before his move to America and that string of violent "Death Wish" movies.
Oliver Reed plays Tinker, a photographer who uses his camera as a means to seduce young women throughout the summer season. While he does make a modest living selling the tourist photos he takes, his main interest is the hunt, a relentless pursuit of pleasure and sexual conquests that often become little more than gaming bets among his friends. However, from the moment he meets Nicola (Jane Merrow), the gauntlet is thrown down.
Nicola matches Tinkerís flirtations and witticisms in often provocative ways and the challenge to win her becomes an obsession. Is Nicola just slumming, getting her sexual kicks with someone beneath her? Or will she choose Tinker over her stuffy Eton and Cambridge educated suitors?
The film has a bittersweet flavour to it with a layer of sadness running underneath. Winnerís film captures the sunny, carefree days of a seaside resort in the summer and also the end of the season as winter closes in, the tourists go home and all of the love affairs come to an end. Nicholas Roegís black and white cinematography evokes another time and place when young men wore blazers and ties, their dates had teased hair and bouffants, they all did the twist and the British Invasion was in full swing. Winner employs many of the stylistic devices of the French New Wave and even today the film feels fresh and spontaneous.
I think that ĎThe Systemí was ahead of its time and the script was outstanding. It was arguably the best film ever made by Michael Winner and one of Oliver Reedís finest performances.
I was privileged to work with Nic Roeg and his input was enormously important to the quality of the finished production as was Alex Thomsonís work on camera.
We had an extraordinary group of talented actors, including David Hemmings, (Blow Up) Andrew Ray, Barbara Ferris, Julia Foster and John Alderton.
However, I donít think the US knew how to market the film and they ended up re titling it ĎThe Girl Gettersí, which really trivialised a great movie and as a result it probably did not get the audiences it deserved.