TOM JONES (1963) Director: Tony Richardson.
Based on the novel by Henry Fielding, this is the story of Tom Jones, an alleged “bastard” who cares little for religious studies and a great deal for romps with the opposite sex. He has a series of amusing and even harrowing adventures which nearly lead him to the gallows. At times this comes across like a mere sex farce, and some of the “techniques” Richardson employs – such as fast-motion and dialogue cards for silent sequences – don't really work that well. Albert Finney is really too old for the part but rises above this and turns in an excellent performance as Tom. The picture is bolstered by a host of fine British character actors including Joan Greenwood and Hugh Griffith. Look for Jack MacGowran from The Giant Behemoth (he was the nervous museum director) and The Exorcist (he played the director who dies) in a nice bit as Partridge, the man assumed to be Jones' father. [Thinking he's his long-lost father, Jones, sitting on a horse, lifts him up and off his feet and gives him a big kiss on the mouth!] Some of the “big” sequences – a massive "cat fight" between pious ladies and the town trollops; Jones and company riding the hounds – are a bit disappointing, but the famous eating scene is still highly entertaining. In this Finney and one of his conquests sit at a table and eat a huge, lip-smacking feast in what can only be described as an extremely lascivious manner. Very popular in its day – it also won an Oscar for best Picture -- this remains a good, entertaining movie if not a truly great one.
Verdict: Very good comedy. ***.