Home Movies by Decade Movies - 1980s Brimstone and Treacle (1982)

Brimstone and Treacle (1982)

This bizarre, unsavoury psychological thriller from writer Dennis Potter stars Sting (from the rock group The Police) who convincingly portrays Martin Taylor – a sinister young drifter who cons his way as a guest into the home of a middle-class English couple where he molests their handicapped and paralysed daughter, Patricia (Suzanna Hamilton).

During the day, Tom Bates (Denholm Elliott) sits in his office, writes obituary hymns and prays somebody will drop the bomb and put him out of his misery.

Tom has a secret: Four years ago he was having sex with his secretary when his daughter Patricia burst in and discovered them. She ran into the street and was hit by a truck. She has been immobilised ever since, lying strapped to a bed in her parents’ house and only making weird, gurgling sounds.

Devoutly religious Norma Bates (Joan Plowright) stays home all day and all night to bathe, feed and dress her paralysed daughter. Norma has not been to a hairdresser, a cinema or a restaurant in four years. She is ripe. She is ready. She is sick. She is tired. She is about to take the bait from Martin Taylor . . .

Once inside the Bates’ home, Martin not only pretends he knew Patricia at art school, but claims they had secretly vowed to marry. He slyly worms his wicked way into Norma’s heart (“Do you mind if I call you Mumsy?”) and convinces the Bates’ to let him stay and “take care of the only person I’ve ever loved”.

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The couple walks out the door – and Martin takes off his mask. He throws oatmeal down Patricia’s mouth, undresses her and rapes her. It’s all very sick and sordid stuff, and before it’s over it’s going to get even stranger.

Although the film is handsomely appointed and decently acted – Denholm Elliott has never been better – the weird scenario leaves a sour aftertaste.

The film also includes an incredibly cool soundtrack of songs by artists like The Go-Go’s, The Police, Squeeze and an irreverently stylish 1930’s little ditty called Spread A Little Happiness, performed by Sting.

Thomas Bates
Denholm Elliott
Martin Taylor
Sting (Gordon Sumner)
Patricia Bates
Suzanna Hamilton
Norma Bates
Joan Plowright
Miss Valerie Holdsworth
Mary Macleod

Richard Loncraine