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The System

The System(1953)

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The System (1953)

British film director Michael Winner had wanted Oliver Reed to play the troubled protagonist of West 11 (1963), a downbeat tale of life in the Notting Hill slums, but the notion was nixed by his producers, who felt that the brooding star of The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) and Paranoiac (1963) was a B actor unworthy of the part. Acting as his own producer for The System (US: The Girl-Getters, 1964), Winner brought Reed onboard to play the leader of a gang of purposeless youths who set every summer upon the pretty tourists flocking from London to the Devon coast. Shot on location by Nicolas Roeg, The System recalls Federico Fellini's bittersweet Il Vitelloni (1953) while pointing the way towards such coming-of-age classics as George Lucas' American Graffiti (1973) and Barry Levinson's Diner (1982). Though Reed would soon graduate to such A-list assignments as Ken Russell's Women in Love (1969) and The Devils (1970), twelfth-billed costar David Hemmings enjoyed an even earlier career crossover as the star of Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup (1966). During filming of The System, Reed had terrorized the younger, less experienced actor by hanging him upside down from a hotel balcony - a drunken stunt that took Hemmings well out of his comfort zone. The pair would reunite thirty-five years later for Ridley Scott's Gladiator (2000), during principal photograph of which Reed succumbed to a fatal heart attack at the age of 61.

By Richard Harland Smith

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