A Touch of Love Review
London, the late 1960s. Rosamund Stacey (Sandy Dennis) is a young woman completing a doctorate. She juggles the platonic attentions of two men: George (Ian McKellen) and Roger (John Standing). However, one night her relationship with George ceases to be platonic...and Rosamund falls pregnant as a result.
A Touch of Love sits oddly with the other three films released this week by Optimum as “60s Classics”. (Links to my reviews are screen left.) Firstly, that word “classic”: it's easily the least-known of the four – not that it necessarily follows, it's also the only one I hadn't seen before. Part of this may be due to the critical reputation of the directors concerned: while the late Richardson and Schlesinger and the very much alive Loach have certainly been names to conjure with, somehow that of the also living Waris Hussein has not. Born in India in 1938, he was the only Asian director at the BBC in the early 1960s, and in some quarters will forever be known as the first director of Doctor Who. With a few exceptions, his cinema films have been lower-profile than his TV work: his last film to date for the bigger screen, Sixth Happiness (1997), received a very limited release. Yet he has generally done solid work in both media and like other directors who have worked primarily for the small screen (Philip Saville comes to mind as another example), his quiet craftsmanship can too easily be undervalued.
A Touch of Love is also the odd film out in that it isn't set in the North of England and/or a working-class community, and that I suspect reflects the background of the people behind it. But looked at another way, it's A Kind of Loving which is the oddity. All four films are adaptations from novels (or a stage play, for A Taste of Honey), and all except A Kind of Loving, thesse previous works were by women and they put women at the centre of the film. Margaret Drabble (born 1939) came to prominence as a novelist in the early 60s. The protagonists of her earlier novels are young women, often educated (taking advantage of the 1948 Education Act, which enabled many women, like Drabble herself, to enter further education). Drabble's heroines have to juggle the demands of their love lives, intellectual fulfilment and also motherhood. Rosamund is no different: after having decided to keep her baby, she is determined to do so on her own terms, without the need for a husband. This is something that the final scene only emphasises – even more so, the final shot.
The Millstone, published in 1965, was Drabble's third novel, and she adapted it herself for this screen version. Presumably “Millstone” was considered an uncommercial word for use in a film title so instead we get one of those non-committal titles that tell us nothing except what genre to expect. (In this case a romance, but anyone expecting that will be disappointed.) The US title was the even less meaningful Thank You All Very Much. Under whichever title, this remains the only Drabble novel adapted for the cinema, though the BBC did serialise The Waterfall in 1980.
Nebraska-born Sandy Dennis would seem an odd choice to play Rosamund, but she holds the film together, even managing a convincing British accent. (Although lipsynch isn't entirely perfect, by all accounts – including Ian McKellen's – Dennis wasn't post-dubbed.) Ian McKellen (in his cinema debut), Eleanor Bron and John Standing are fine as the two men and the best friend in Rosamund's life. Peter Suschitzky's camerawork is excellent as well.
A Touch of Love is an absorbing, modestly-scaled film that has somewhat slipped into obscurity in the last four decades. You can imagine it turning up on afternoon TV, though I have found no record that it ever did. It's not a film that everyone will seek out, but those who do will find it worthwhile.
A Touch of Love is released as part of Optimum's 60s Classics Collection, and like the other films is presented on a DVD-5 encoded for Region 2 only.
The DVD transfer is in a ratio of 1.66:1 and anamorphically enhanced. The colours are vibrant if slightly heightened as they are in many late-60s films. There's some grain, but it's not distracting. Overall, a pretty good transfer.
The soundtrack is mono, and does its job just fine. As usual, there are no subtitles available, nor are there any extras.
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