Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Joe Egg loses out on the screen

Cleveland Press July 15, 1972

"A Day in the Death of Joe Egg" is playing at the Cedar Lee. Drama; adults. In the cast are Alan Bates, Janet Suzman, Peter Bowles, Sheila Gish, Joan Hickson. Running time: 106 minutes.

Deep down in the credits you will find that this movie was made in 1970. Maybe the powers that be didn't quite know what to do with the film once they had it.

And after seeing the movie it is equally apparent that they didn't know what to do with it while they were making it.

"A Day In the Death of Joe Egg" is based on Peter Nichols' London Broadway stage success. Nichols also adapted his play for the screen.

IT IS A SAD-funny story about the parents of a hopelessly spastic child. The humor is both black and bleak, balanced on the thin edge of hysteria.

The play, disturbing as it was, managed to say something about how we are all cripples in some way or other. The movie fails to impart this feeling.

In opening up the script for the screen the story loses both unity and impact.

The parents have a habit of fantasizing, of doing little skits as they poke fun at the events in their life with the child; the meeting with the German psychiatrist, the talk with the minister. These came out as asides to the audience in the play.

ON FILM THEY turn into what might be taken as realistic flashbacks or as the imaginings of one person only. The reality of film works against the story.

On the other hand, scenes in their home, notably those with another couple, come out as a photographed play with everyone talking a little too loud.

Much of the humor of the play is lost in the transference and the movie is definitely on the serious side, almost soap-opera serious. Much of this is due to the heavy-handed direction of Peter Medak who allows everything to be planned too intensely.

Alan Bates as the husband can be funny but when he has to be anguished he is merely bland. Much of the movie is about his sexual yearnings, mentally undressing his wife, "running blue movies on the back of my retina" as he puts it.