I don’t know if I like this film: it’s well-acted and may have some points to make about class privilege, selfishness and truthfulness but it’s just so… unpleasant. There’s intimidation, forceful role-playing, at least two rapes (apparently) and actual bodily harm and, in the end, all for what? It’s a trial by endurance for one couple’s ill-founded relationship but does she necessarily have to see the light after being forced to get drunk and stoned and to have intercourse with two men who have invaded their home?
Based on C. Scott Forbes’ 1964 play, The Meter Man, the film was described by director Peter Collinson as being about “…the horror that lurks in the minds of men” and self-knowledge. More importantly, it is by way of a fantasy… what you see isn’t necessarily what you get and that is frankly confusing as I don’t believe there was sufficient narrative skill deployed to bring this across in spite of the excellence of the performers. I mean, Peter… if you could only have given us a clue!?
|A rose between two 'orrible thorns|
As the great Roger Ebert said in his review at the time: “This isn't an evil movie, and it's not an example of the pornography of violence… "The Penthouse," quite simply, is a pretty good shocker... It's a relief to find one that's made with skill and a certain amount of intelligence.”
|Lights are on and there's almost nobody home...|
Meanwhile we discover that the light switch has been turned on by Suzy Kendall who will likewise do the same to parts of the audience (with thanks to Ian Anderson for that one). She plays Barbara, a shop girl who is having an affair with a rich and powerful estate agent called Bruce (Terence Morgan) who is at this moment struggling to wake up, lounging in their bed whilst she makes him breakfast.
|Bruce looks sheepishly at the emotionally-honest Barbara|
Tom’s strangeness is only the half of it as Dick (Norman Rodway) arrives and, in addition to being very good at meter reading, also may have that elusive pencil… There’s also a “Harry” of course, who is waiting in the van or some such.
|The meter man arrives and sharpens his pencil|
At first Barbara and Bruce just think them fools and respond in the way you would to two children but when Tom starts sharpening his pencil with a large pen-knife, the pennies begin to drop. We’re not sure what the two interlopers want either, theft would be too simple and nowhere near unsettling enough… no, they are here for something far worse: a good time.
|The penny drops...|
|The "party" gets underway...|
It’s at this point you wonder how things can possibly end and, in fairness, so do Tom and Dick. How can they leave after making such a scene and expect B&B to not tell the Police? Bruce, by now showing a weaker character than his lover, swears he won’t whilst Barbara is honest enough to say she doesn’t know.
|Barbara, Bruce, Harry, Tom and Dick|