So here we go with the fourth film in Indicator’s second Hammer box, The Full Treatment. If I were to be brutally honest and ranking the four films in preference, this film would be third on the list, but nonetheless this has quite a lot going for it. In essence it’s a very odd and strangely ‘modern’ film regards its sensibilities, with all sorts of subtext, intentional or otherwise.
The film begins quite brilliantly, really grabbing the viewer with the immediate aftermath of a road accident, depicted in some graphic detail. Immediately following their wedding, racing driver Alan Coulby (Ronald Lewis) and his Italian wife Denise (Diane Cilento, who is quite brilliant in this film) have been involved in an head-on collision with a truck, killing the truck driver and throwing Denise clear into the road with superficial injuries. Alan Coulby, however, has suffered severe head injuries. Several months after the accident, Coulby is released from treatment and attempts to get his life back on track by taking the honeymoon that was originally curtailed by the accident.
Unfortunately Coulby is something of a broken man- he is too traumatised to drive, which, considering his earlier prowess as a racing driver, would be doubly emasculating (Denise has to drive them to their honeymoon destination, with Coulby a frustrated passenger) and is rendered impotent by an unnatural urge to strangle his wife whenever they attempt to be intimate or share physical contact. He stares at his trembling hands, compelled to do his wife harm whenever aroused, as if his hands belong to someone else. Driven (sic) to distraction by all of this, he is prone to violent outbursts and rages. This proves to be a difficulty for the film, the character as written is a pretty unlikeable lead which impacts the films ability to foster much sympathy for his predicament. Instead we feel for Denise and view Coulby almost as a villain, which is likely not the films intention.
The film does feel quite subversive with the sexual undertones of his murderous urges and jealous rage, I would think someone like Verhoeven or Cronenberg could fashion a quite riveting modern thriller from this material. Its quite surprising to see a Hammer film of this period having some nudity, too- we see Denise swimming naked in the sea or having a bath infront of her husband, quite clearly liberated and confident of her own sexuality and body, which again is at odds with her husbands feelings of emasculation and his horror at his body betraying him when he loses control of his hands and they do Denise harm.
There is a wonderful twist towards the third act, in which Alan and the viewer actually believe that he has indeed possibly killed Denise and he goes on the run, following a blackout. While I doubted that a films of its era could actually follow through with this possibility, its nonetheless an unnerving moment of the film pulling the rug from under you and subverting expectations. For that alone, I rate this film quite highly. Maybe i’m ‘seeing’ too much in its subtext and themes, and the film does become somewhat pedestrian at the end with its fairly formulaic denouement but it isn’t enough to detract from its achievements before.
And of course the film has its interests beyond the film itself- the unfortunate fate of actor Ronald Lewis, which I dwelt upon in a recent post here and Diane Cilento who was soon famous more for being Mrs Sean Connery than her own acting career (which arguably suffered from that marriage). Neither of the two really reached the heights they might have, but this film is a tantalising glimpse of a moment when both of them had all sorts of possibilities ahead of them.