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Morgan – A Suitable Case For Treatment (1965)

A downright amazing, unjustly-forgotten black comedy starring David Warner as Morgan Delt, an emotionally immature young long-haired cockney lout obsessed with apes, Communism and upper-class ex-wife Leonie (an impossibly foxy Vanessa Redgrave in her film debut), who’s leaving him on account of his erratic behaviour.

He devises manic schemes for scaring off Leonie’s posh new art dealer fiancé Charles (Robert Stephens) and winning her back, including threatening him with various weapons and abducting her to a remote lake in Wales.

At another time, Morgan wires Leonie’s bedroom for sound and plays tapes of mating gorillas just when she and Charles are about to get it on. His efforts to win her back are punctuated by deluded and deranged antics that place him on a trajectory straight for the asylum (via prison).

The entire film feels volatile and unstable. It is clunkily constructed with stills, sped-up and slow-motion sequences, and intercut film samples – mostly stock wildlife footage. Shot in black and white, the paltry budget is often plainly visible in wobbly interiors and fragile furniture.

But Warner’s manic performance keeps the whole thing rolling along, and the absurdist finale – where he togs up as a gorilla to gatecrash Leonie’s wedding party – unfolds with a hideous logic, leading to a Docklands dream sequence in which friends, family and Russian revolutionaries condemn Morgan to a massed firing squad.

The whole cast is superb. As urbane art dealer Charles Napier, Robert Stephens is cut-glass, hilariously disarming Morgan of his multiple weaponry. Irene Handl excels as Morgan’s cockney Ma who “refuses to de-Stalinise” while Arthur Mullard is deceptively tender as his wrestler stepfather.

Bernard Bresslaw turns in a gumball cameo as a police officer.

Topped off with Johnny Dankworth’s grubby jazz score and a beautifully engineered final reveal, Morgan stands awkwardly but proudly as one of British cinema’s great, uncompromising achievements.

Known in the US simply as Morgan.

Leonie Delt
Vanessa Redgrave
Morgan Delt
David Warner
Charles Napier
Robert Stephens
Mrs Delt
Irene Handl
Mr Henderson
Newton Blick
Mrs Henderson
Nan Munro
Arthur Mullard
Bernard Bresslaw
Graham Crowden

Karel Reisz