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Cure, The (1950)

Courtesy of Martin Fairfax-Jones & Associates

Main image of Cure, The (1950)
35mm, 18 min, black & white
DirectorsRichard Massingham
 Michael Law
Production CompanyPublic Relationship Films
ProducersRichard Massingham
 Betty Massingham
ScreenplayRichard Massingham
 Betty Massingham
 John Waterhouse
CinematographyJ.M. Burgoyne-Johnson
 R. Algar

Cast: Richard Massingham (John); Barbara Lott (Elsie); Nicolas Bentley (Dr Stoss)

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The zestful Mr Brown falls victim to lumbago. When traditional cures and medical intervention all prove fruitless, he descends into gloom.

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Though perhaps slightly less experimental in formal terms than some of his earlier, more visually jarring films, The Cure is a thoroughly engaging, amusing, character-driven addition to Richard Massingham's distinctive body of work.

Massingham himself portrays jovial, podgy Mr Brown. In a customarily confident performance, he draws his character through a vigorous and brilliantly assembled opening sequence depicting Brown's morning routine (a recurring theme in Massingham's work), notably employing a memorable selection of predominantly non-verbal sounds (laughter, slapping, singing, gurgling). Having created this portrait of cheery contentment, Massingham seems to take a malicious delight in turning the tables on his character, suddenly inflicting a miserable bout of lumbago upon Mr Brown. Immediately the humour of the piece becomes the comedy of frustration and the film takes a slightly darker turn. Unusual cutting, oddly composed shots, and ominous voiceovers all contribute to an effective change of mood. Customary and welcome touches of surrealism include three bizarre neighbours, one replete with odd and vaguely devilish beard, peering over a fence in eerie synchronisation to laugh callously at Mr Brown's plight. Later on, the sight of Massingham as Brown, staring with a hangdog look of misery directly at the camera, wearing various absurd hats, ostensibly to cure his never-ending ailment, is reminiscent of the utterly frustrated audience-acknowledging looks of Oliver Hardy, and is equally effective.

Regular Massingham collaborator Russell Waters makes a memorable appearance, this time in a concise and quietly restrained performance as an aloof back specialist, so wrapped up in his bio-chemical theories that he no longer has any interest in the patients he is supposed to advise.

The Cure is, first and foremost, a brilliantly dry and witty character comedy, which plays tricks with conventional cinematic narrative and construction in a way that remains astonishingly vital, immediate and contemporary. Effectively twisting from light to dark, it is a film that entertainingly reflects the tragedy and comedy that are central to the human experience.

Vic Pratt

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Video Clips
1 Lumbago (01:46)
2. A little light manipulation (01:19)
3. Advice (01:06)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Massingham, Richard (1898-1953)