Starring Shirley Maclaine, Perry King, Michael Hordern. Directed by Warris Husein, Colour, an ITC Production. Distributed in the UK by Scotia Barber Distributors Ltd.
Some films have a good script and leaden direction. Some have a lousy script and brilliant direction. Films in both categories often come off really well. ‘Joel Delaney’ is of the second type.
The film is mainly a chillingly beautiful contrast between the two faces of New York – the smart middle-class home with its smart middle-class mum and well-controlled kids, and mum’s brother, living amongst Puerto Ricans in the heart of Spanish Harlem. From the schizophrenic city come schizo people – like Joel Delaney. Sometimes he’s a bored and rebellious middle American, sometimes he’s a raving maniac who beheads women with a flick-knife.
How, who, why, when and who’s next is the meat of the film. The tension, the uncertainty, the gruesomely understated deaths (look over the fridge door when Shirley goes into the kitchen to get the kid’s breakfast in the beach house), the powerful use of music. All these masterly touches from Waris Hussien lift what is sometimes a boring script into the realm of fear and tension. You might be tempted to walk out early on in the film, when nothing seems to be happening and the dialogue is banal. Don’t. Wait and watch. It’s worth it.