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  • Benjamin May

Tomorrow Never Comes (1978) Review

In 1971, Oliver Reed purchased Broome Hall, a picturesque, 56-bedroom manor house nestling on the southern slopes of the Greensand Ridge in Surrey. For the next eight years, Reed was the self-styled Master of Broome Hall; though the cost of the upkeep associated with the building crippled him financially. As such, from the mid 70’s onwards, Reed chose to do many films for the pay-check, regardless of their quality; perhaps the only reasonable explanation for his appearance in Peter Collinson’s ‘Tomorrow Never Comes.’

An impossibly cliched thriller, the film follows Frank, who has just returned to his hometown following an extended business trip. He looks up his old girlfriend, Janie, whom he has been pining for. Rumours abound that she has hooked up with another man, which Frank doesn’t like the sound of. After he locates her, proceedings escalate quickly, until Frank finds himself holding her hostage. It is up to Detective Wilson to talk Frank down before any more violence ensues.

Reportedly a tax shelter co-production between the UK and Canada, the film boasts an impressive cast of talented actors; though little else. How the three credited screenwriters- David Pursall, Jack Seddon and Sydney Banks- injected so many cliches and hackneyed ideas into the narrative is actually astounding. Unoriginal is an understatement; the filmmakers seem to think of new ideas as anathema. Moreover, the dialogue is laughably bad, especially the lines spoken by Detective Wilson; who is duller than dishwater. Additionally, to call the characterisation of everyone involved paper-thin would be an insult to paper.

Filmed in Canada, but set in America, it was submitted to the 11th Moscow International Film Festival; where, unsurprisingly, it failed to win any awards. Narratively, the only interesting aspects involve the locals’ reaction to the hostage-taking: treating it like a travelling carnival. This creates a few fun moments, satirising the American obsession with true crime. However, it’s not an original point, nor is it the focus of the film. We don’t care for the main characters, nor the secondary ones; and their story fails to compel, entertain or engage.

In addition, the visuals are uninspired and flat. Cinematographer François Protat fails to create tension or suspense with his compositions, filming proceedings without flair or- seemingly- much interest in the material. There is but one instance where he shows some originality, a scene where he makes clever use of a revolving piece of cut glass; though in a sea of mediocrity, it does little to elevate the impact of his addition to the film. Furthermore, the score by Roy Budd exhibits a tonal inconsistency, which undermines the intensity of the film’s violent scenes and subdues the nuances of the actors’ performances.

Stephen McHattie stars as Frank, opposite Susan George as Janie and the aforementioned Oliver Reed as Wilson. McHattie is totally credible as Frank, delivering a measured performance of a man overcome by insane jealousy. However, the screenplay lets him down. George performs well, though does overdo it a bit, while Reed’s valiant attempts to make his character multifaceted and interesting largely fall flat in the face of the woeful dialogue and his inconsistent American accent.

Additionally, Donald Pleasence seems to be having fun playing a German Doctor, though doesn’t provide any for the audience, while Raymond Burr, John Ireland and Paul Koslo do their best to bring life to their roles as cardboard cut-out secondary policemen. Furthermore, John Osborne proves why he is best remembered as a playwright and not as an actor in a thankfully small role.

It is almost impossible to reconcile the fact that Peter Collinson directed both ‘The Italian Job’ and ‘Tomorrow Never Comes.’ Narratively uninteresting and unoriginal, featuring inane and stilted dialogue, it is something of a shambles. Visually unremarkable, and with a misjudged score, the attempts by the cast to save this disappointing, dull picture simply aren’t enough. In the end, ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’ makes one wish that, much like its title suggests, the film itself had never arrived. Maybe Ollie should have sold Broome Hall earlier than he did.


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