Friday, 14 January 2011



British movies about necrophilia are pretty rare. Off the top of my relatively ill-informed and non-encyclopedic head, the most famous was The Party's Over with Oliver Reed, which (if you believe Halliwell's) was ultimately disowned by the production company. British movies about necrophilia that have a screenplay by an ITN newsreader you could probably count on the fingers of one finger, unless Dermot Murnaghan is secretly remaking Jorg Buttgereit's back catalogue in his shed.

Neither The Sea Nor The Sand isn't entirely about necrophilia, although there's an unhealthy streak of it through this 1972 curiosity. But it's terribly discreet and terribly tasteful. It actually starts off in soppy Woman's Weekly/Mills And Boon territory detailing the idyllic romance between Susan Hampshire (who, if you want to continue the TV news analogy, looks a bit like a young Jennie Bond, and you half expect her to announce the latest developments at Sandringham) and Michael Petrovitch: brooding, hunky, loving. After about forty minutes of girlie slop they go to Scotland, where Petrovitch carks it on the beach... But such is their love that despite being certified dead, he's still walking around and - sickbucket alert - apparently still going to bed with Susan Hampshire. Mute (she hears his voice in her head) and visibly rotting he may be, but they cannot let each other go and ultimately there is only one way it can end.

Adapted from his own novel by ITN's Gordon Honeycombe (who would later make an early foray into popularising genealogy on TV), this is certainly an oddity and it certainly goes into creepy, icky territory: it's more of a zombie romance than a tragic ghost story. And, perhaps perversely, I kind of liked it for straying into those more uncomfortable, less traditional areas, especially in a "proper film" with proper actors like Hampshire and the always-welcome Frank Finlay (as Petrovich's brother). It is a bit sloppy in the first half and it's pretty obvious how it's going to conclude, but it's a strange little film that's worth a look, and decidedly unusual.


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