Monday, March 7, 2016

What Became of Jack and Jill? (1972)

          Whereas most of the horror films that Great Britain’s Amicus Productions made in the ’60s and ’70s were anthologies featuring gruesome supernatural elements, What Became of Jack and Jill? is more along the lines of a Hitchockian thriller. Based on a novel by Laurence Moody, the film takes an arch look at the Generation Gap, portraying with-it kids as amoral and lazy while portraying seniors as clueless and judgmental. These characterizations are dubious at best, but they serve narrative well by defining battle lines. Like some of Hitchcock’s darkest films, What Became of Jack and Jill? focuses on villains, so the wicked fun of the picture involves watching craven people execute an outlandish scheme, then waiting for their inevitable comeuppance. To be clear, What Became of Jack and Jill? is microscopic in scale and threadbare in terms of social commentary, roughly the equivalent of a Night Gallery episode. That said, the characters are entertainingly self-serving, the situations are somewhat imaginative, and the overall shape of the narrative is satisfying.
          Paul Nicholas plays Johnnie Tallent, a surly longhair who lives with his aging grandmother, Alice (Mona Washbourne), whom he calls “Gran.” Gran owns a house and draws a solid pension, so she supports Johnnie even though he doesn’t work. Yet Gran has little use for Johnnie’s flashy girlfriend, Jill Standish (Vanessa Howard), a bitchy blonde who dreams of becoming a jet-setter once Gran dies and leaves her wealth to Johnnie. Growing impatient with Gran’s longevity, Jill and Johnnie conspire to kill Gran, devising the outlandish scheme of convincing Gran that a violent youth revolution is underway. Will these horrible kids achieve their goal of driving poor Gran to a heart attack?
          Little of what happens in What Became of Jack and Jill? will surprise savvy moviegoers, so the picture will strike some folks as unbearably predictable. Viewed more charitably, the movie tracks a steady slide into amorality, with Johnnie succumbing to Jill’s toxic influence until his own vile nature surfaces. So even though What Became of Jack and Jill? is a simple story about greed, the themes it explores are timeless, and the specifics of the film capture a colorful moment in British history—surely the generation that endured World War II was mystified by the arrogance and entitlement of Love Generation brats who used the language of rebellion to justify their sloth. Don’t underestimate Gran, though. She’s craftier than she seems.

What Became of Jack and Jill?: GROOVY

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