Friday, August 24, 2007

Terence Stamp As John Soames

A good friend recently hooked me up with a film that I have been wanting to see for a very long time and I thought I would throw out my initial reactions to it here.
Very few film fans would question that Terence Stamp is one of the finest actors of his generation, which makes the unavailability of some of his key films all the more perplexing. The 1970 Amicus production THE MIND OF MR.SOAMES has proven itself one of the most elusive.
SOAMES is an odd film that ranges from being extremely effective to oddly flat. Terence Stamp plays John Soames, a man who was born into a coma and has been asleep for his whole life. In his early thirties a scientist figures out a way to revive him and the film follows Soames 'rebirth' as it is.
The biggest problem with SOAMES is how lopsided it feels with an extended opening that is way too long and the clipped off ending that feels more confused than ambiguous. That said, there is much too admire in the film and much of it centers on the incredible performance by Stamp in the title role.
THE MIND OF MR. SOAMES is the end of Terence's first run as one of the most beautiful and intelligent actors of our time. A very personal and spiritual journey would follow SOAMES for Stamp and he wouldn't reappear until the mid seventies. Stamp had just shot the equally elusive UNA SATGIONE ALL'INFERNO before making SOAMES and he was two years past his most famous work from the Sixties. There is a real haunted quality about Stamp's work as John Soames that I don't think any other actor could have brought to the table. Sure, he should be commended for playing a grown man who is basically a newborn but Stamp does much more with this role than one might think.
Nobody has ever played boredom and weariness as well as Terence Stamp and in some of the most successful moments of SOAMES, Stamp is able to play out these emotions better than any other performance I can think of. While the film reminded me of many others, namely with its themes of an all seeing media, the one other work that I thought of most was Nicolas Roeg's THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1975). Specifically the interrogation and home imprisonments scenes of the last half of the film. Bowie has said on numerous occasions that he was very inspired by Terence Stamp and I wonder if he saw THE MIND OF MR. SOAMES when it played in London in 1970.
THE MIND OF MR. SOAMES started out life as a novel by Charles Eric Maine and I would be most curious now to read the book, as I am sure that it takes the time to really handle the themes the film is only able to slightly address. A glance at director Alan Cooke's filmography shows most of his work to be in television so it is surprising perhaps that the film doesn't center more on the early idea of 'reality' based programming. Outside of camera crews constantly around filming and some small moments with some of the reporters, the film doesn't look too closely at this and leaves it essentially in the background. It does give a more oppressive weight to what Soames is going through but I was left wanting more of it.
I did admire greatly the score by Michael Dress, who had just scored one of my all time favorite films, the moving Gene Wilder-Margot Kidder movie QUACKSER FORTUNE HAS A COUSIN IN THE BRONX (1970). His score here is very inventive, suitably creepy and works very well.
Oscar winning Billy Williams provides the film's cinematography and it is an exceptional looking film even though the full screen version I watched had a tv quality about it (I blame this more on Cook rather than Williams though).
The cast for the most part is very solid and gives Stamp good supporting performances. These include both Robert Vaughn and Nigel Davenport. Plus very pretty, but underused, Vickery Turner who reminded me very much of a young Melanie Griffith with red hair.
THE MIND OF MR. SOAMES isn't a great film and it isn't up to par with the best Amicus productions, but it is well worth seeking out if just for the astonishing performance by Terence Stamp. This is the last role we have from him where he still seems remarkably young. When he returned to the screen in the mid to late seventies, he was still brilliant and beautiful but he seemed changed and much of the youthful energy he brought to his roles in the Sixties had vanished.
THE MIND OF MR. SOAMES is prime for a dvd release, let's hope the time for this flawed but interesting little film will soon come.

For A More Detailed and Thought Out Review, Please Visit Cinebeats Recent Look At It. The Link Is To The Right.


Rogue Spy 007 said...

Never seen this film that I can remember, but Terence Stamp is a brilliant actor. He did a lot of interesting and great work in the 60's. I still think he's a wonderful actor, in things such as "The Limey." He's been able to convey so much with just a look. Great blog.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Keith,
I agree about Terence, he is amazing...I hope this film finds its way to dvd soon...

cinebeats said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts about the film Jeremy and it seems we came to similar conclusions about the movie.

I think one of things that bothered me so much is that you can see good stuff in it and I kept wondering - every time the film seemed to slow down and drag - what happened to the director? Is he napping? It's really uneven which is a shame because the cast was good and seemed eager to make the film work, and the ideas it presents are interesting.

I found your comments about Bowie's performance in The an Who Fell to Earth very interesting. If someone as talented as Roeg had directed The Mind of Mr. Soames it could have really been a great film.

Even with its obvious flaws I do think it's worth a look and I hope it gets a DVD release as well.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Kimberly,
I totally agree on the director. God, if Roeg had directed this film, it would have been a major masterpiece...not sure why I kept flashing on Thomas J. Newton watching it. Probably because of Bowie's love for Terence's work...thanks again.