A heads-up for a cult favorite: "Withnail & I" on TCM 1:30 this afternoon (Sat.).

“I fear Withnail is right; we are drifting into the arena of the unwell.”
“I called him a ponce, and now I’m calling you one. PONCE!!”
“As a youth, I used to weep in butcher’s shops.”
“I’ve just narrowly avoided having a buggery; and now I’ve come up here with the express purpose of wishing one upon you.”

So if you’ve never seen this mordantly hilarious indie film, and you’ve been wondering what all the fuss on these boards has been about, AND you’ve got that premium cable channel, then you’re in luck! Just don’t try keeping up with the depicted alcohol consumption or you’ll end up in the hospital. That is all.

:smack: Sorry, that’s TMC, The Movie Channel, not Turner Classic Movies. :smack:

I’ve already got my VHS copy, my Canadian import DVD copy and my Criterion DVD copy…and I still watch the damn thing any time they show it on cable.

Ah well, I guess I can spend another afternoon utterly failing to build a Camberwell Carrot.

My all-time favourite film. Wish I had TMC. Well, I have the video and the DVD and the script and the biography of the scriptwriter… So maybe not.

Cleverest script ever written. So subtle, and grows every time you watch it. Your task for this watching: note the subtle and not-so-subtle homosexual references that Uncle Monty works into everything he says, especially when trying to flirt with Marwood.

Will the bad language be kept in on that network? I don’t think it would work without it.

re. the language: I have no idea, because I’ve never had TMC (and I don’t need it today, because I too have the Criterion), but it’s considered a premium channel and in the USA that means pretty much anything goes, especially after 10:00 or 11:00 or midnight. But just in case it won’t be including everything unsnipped, here’s the worst of it:

“Monty, you terrible cunt!” :smiley:

For those who haven’t seen it, I encourage you to watch this. A brief synopsis:

Two out of work British actors are living in squalor in dilapidated fin de siècle 1969 London - the charismatic but irredeemably selfish Withnail, and everyman narrator Marwood. They are taking too many drugs: booze, very strong grass, but mostly amphetamines, and can’t get out of their habit. To attempt to get take control of their lives, Marwood gets Withnail to ask his extremely rich, failed actor Uncle Monty to loan them his holiday cottage in the north of England. Monty, however, follows them there, with rather different plans for the weekend…

Two out of the three lead performances are very strong, and all the cameos are superbly performed - particular mention goes to Danny, the drug dealer. But the script is what makes it a work of genius.

Also the poacher who, when Withnail pisses him off, threatens to put a live eel in his bed. :wink:

That’s right; get my hopes up, then instantly dash them . . .

Here are some of the subtleties I picked up on from Monty:[spoiler]“Oh, so you’re a thespian too?” - except he pronounces it to rhyme with ‘lesbian’.

“There is, I think you will agree, a certain je ne sais quoi oh-so-very-special about a firm, young, carrot.” - enough said.

“Cooking’s one of the natural talents.” …of a gay man (this one’s a bit tenuous, but I can’t see any other meaning).

“Then we must choose our moment and have a word with him.” - this is more flirtatious than a specific gay reference, but still disguised within something else.

“I think we’d better release you from the legumes and transfer your talents to the meat” - enough said.

“The sky begins to bruise, and soon we shall be forced to camp” - heavy emphasis on the last word.

Playing cards: “The two queens to bet” - except he pronounces it “bed”.[/spoiler]There’s a historical reason for all of this: homosexuality had only just been legalized, and the habit among gay men, at the time it was still punishable by imprisonment, was to use subtle signs to indicate to other gay people that you were gay, such as missayings and innuendo, or to drop polari words into conversation as a sign, though Monty doesn’t do this.

Not to mention the obvious visual phallic references to eels and saveloys (including that shot in the bathroom with Peter Marwood holding one sausage rather provocatively in the tub with Withnail in the background), references to Peter’s attractiveness, and the Hamlet quotes (“No, nor women neither. Nor women neither.”)

Plus, Withnail goes out of his way to quaff booze from phallic containers: downing the lighter fluid, slugging back sherry from the bottle, chugging the wine alone in the park at the very end. Of course, this is easily explained as the desperation of an alcoholic, and sometimes a bottle is just a bottle. Still, though, it makes for more gay symbolism.

Ooh, I meant to thank jjimm for that info on polari. Never heard of it before… that was very interesting, thanks!

I really don’t know if Withnail is meant to be gay. Bi, perhaps, and he clearly loved Marwood platonically at least. However, the repetition of “nor women neither” is possibly significant.

“We want the finest wines available to humanity. We want them here, and we want them now!”

Marwood? A mere name of convenience in the script. It is a disservice to refer to him as such. In truth he is ‘I’ and nothing but.

What a classic film, Monty is based on Federico Fellini and his Rolls Royce is an exceptionally rare and desirable model, borrowed especially for the film. The short, few bars of Hendrix was one of the film’s few extravagences at c.$50,000. Take the trip from Camden to Penrith on slow-forward and it is plain they drive the Jag through 1980’s London. The ‘before’ and ‘after’ chicken are the self-same bird.

The script! “Scrubbers! … They love it.” “We want the finest wines available to humanity.” “The fucker will rue the day!”

Happy days.

“Honestly, officer, I’ve only had a few ales.”


Not just that: the motorway is the M25 before it was opened. If you look carefully, not only are there 1980s roadsigns, but there’s no traffic on the other carriageway.

Other anachronisms: the Heinz Beans in the kitchen are not the 1960s cans, which had no pictures on them.

When they get pulled over for drunk driving, the cars in the background are all modern.

I’s script at the end is a modern version of a glossy-covered paperback, whereas other books in the film are the old Penguin editions.

And I tend to agree with you about the name “Marwood”. Though it’s in the script, it jars. “I” is better.

I think Withnail tries to sell out his housemate (for promised sexual favors) for his uncle’s favor (for access to his cottage) because on some level he wants Peter Marwood for himself, but is too consumed with fear and self-loathing to make the necessary overtures. But if he can get his Uncle Monty to bag Marwood, it not only represents a seduction-by-proxy; it might even break the ice for him to be with Marwood in the future.

As for Marwood’s frequent unease and panic throughout the film, that’s a combination of the timidity of a callow young man recognizing his shortcomings (vis-a-vis bigger, more experienced and aggressive drunks, poachers, etc.) and of his homosexual panic, as he recognizes that some men are attracted to him. This aspect of Peter’s self-awareness would have been better explained had Bruce Robinson attributed Withnail’s embittered lament early in the film (about another actor landing a plum role, no doubt by granting sexual favors to the gay director) to Peter instead, thus suggesting that Peter’s sex appeal to gay directors had already become a factor in his stalled career as a thespian, making him perpetually anxious and angry over being hit on.

This is in fact what happened to a young Bruce Robinson after he was cast in Franco Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet (1968, the same year “Withnail” is set). Since Robinson’s written that he based his “I” (Peter Marwood) character on himself, it would have only been fitting to have had Peter have the line about the other actor trading favors for his role. The autobiographical truth is that Bruce Robinson had to repeatedly fend off the older, obese Italian director’s assertive advances on the “Romeo” set and in fact suffered a nervous breakdown upon his return to the U.K., followed by a short stay in a mental hospital – and that for a number of years thereafter he continued to suffer the advances of wealthy, older gay men who wanted a piece of his ass. The whole “Uncle Monty” character is basically an act of poetic justice in which Zefferelli is transmuted into a fatuous, grandiose, lonely loser for ridicule and pity.

As it is, though, I don’t think Peter necessarily senses Withnail’s suppressed homosexuality at all, at least until he learns that Withnail’s misrepresented him as a “toilet trader” to Monty; after this, he’s suspicious of his friend and is more willing to stand up for himself and distance himself from Withnail (as in moving for his acting job and refusing to share the final bottle at the end with him).

Withnail’s oration of Hamlet’s soliloquy in the park was note-perfect, except for his confessional repeating the “No, nor women neither” line. The Hamlet theme not only links him to his gay uncle, but strongly suggests that his fate is not destined to be a happy one. This, too, is in keeping with real-life inspiration for Withnail, Bruce’s friend and late-'60’s housemate Vivian McKerrell [sp?], who for all his natural charm, intelligence, and wit, never found meaningful work as a thespian and drank himself to an early death in the '70’s.

Another housemate they had at the time was David Dundas, whose parents owned the house they all were living in. Dundas would go on to write commercial jingles, including a one-off hit pop song for a 1976 jeans ad (“Jeans On”), as well as the instrumental music score for Withnail & I.

:smack: Correction: the film is set in 1969. (Presumably the “I” character has already checked out of the hospital.)

Actually, I believe Robinson’s script reversed the operation of chance. It was Viv who first made the break from penury into paid work. Although he never realised his full talents. Throat cancer rather than drink was his end I believe. Which by co-incidence also took former Beatle, George Harrison, the film’s producer (?).

I am duly corrected: Zeffirelli, not Fellini.