Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Life at the Top" -- 10 Years Later, Heel's Still Run Down

Cleveland Press March 4, 1966

In 1958, there was a film called "Room at the Top" which graphically dramatized the naked ambition of one Joe Lampton in clawing his way out of his bleak working class background, seducing and then marrying the boss' daughter and gaining himself a position at the top.

"Life at the Top" is the sequel to that work and Lampton, again portrayed by Laurence Harvey, is seen 10 years later -- rich, an executive with a pretty wife and two children, a house in country and a Jaguar.

BUT THOUGH his fingernails are now clean, it's still the same old Joe Lampton. He's dissatisfied. Admittedly his main dissatisfaction is with himself. He is convinced that he could do more for the company, that he is valuable and should not be considered as one who is there through sufferance.

Every effort to break the mold is thwarted by his father-in-law. Lampton finds that where life was once hard, it now is merely empty.

"Life at the Top" emerges as stronger stuff than the average sequel. If it is not wholly as satisfying as the original, it is because it holds fewer surprises. The character of Lampton -- heel and weakling -- has been established and it does not change.

Further there is less dramatic progression in this than there is a series of revealing episodes. Lampton catches his wife (Jean Simmons) having an affair with his best friend (Michael Craig). He in turn takes up with a pretty television commentator (Honor Blackman) who thinks that she sees in Lampton a spark of manhood that might help him amount to something.

ELECTED TO the town council Lampton makes one abortive attempt to help the working class people from which he comes. He walks out on his wife and job, proves that without them he is nothing.

Even in his return there is no moment of honest compromise but more conniving and cheating.

The film is good as an uncompromising look at the empty lives and tedium of one part of a wealthy group. It is well acted with Harvey as much a cad as ever; Miss Simmons, beautiful and agonizing as the bored, unhappy wife; Miss Blackman, sly and seductive as the other woman, and Donald Wolfit, mean and snarling as the father-in-law.