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Poor Cow (1967)

Ken Loach‘s first attempt to bring the social concerns and uncompromising style of his TV work – Up The Junction and Cathy Come Home – to the big screen. The result is an unrelenting picture of sordid South London life.

Joy (Carol White) is the ‘poor cow’ married to bullying crook Tom (John Bindon), and – when he is sent to jail – getting into a hopeless tangle with equally dodgy Dave (Terence Stamp, whose scenes from this were lifted for Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey).

Dave does appear to offer Joy and her child some form of happiness until he also ends up in prison. Joy begins divorce proceedings against her husband, but when he is released she attempts to revive their marriage for the benefit of their son.

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This is probably Loach’s least characteristic film. There are moments – Joy posing topless for seedy old photographers or making love in the hay – which wouldn’t look out of place in a sex comedy. The Donovan music is also incongruous.

The commitment is undeniable, but it’s a gruelling experience: Loach’s next movie, Kes (1970), was so much better for the humour.

Carol White was possibly even hipper than Julie Christie but once said that she felt very uncomfortable during her first trip to the US because of her clothes – Apparently, her London wardrobe was a little too far ahead of its time in America.

Joy
Carol White
Dave

Terence Stamp
Tom

John Bindon
Aunt Emm

Queenie Watts
Beryl

Kate Williams
Customer at Hairdresser

Rose Hillier
Photographer

George Tovey
Judge

Gerald Young
Billy

Malcolm McDowell

Director
Ken Loach