The Killing of Sister George (1968)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Gay & Lesbian Films, Satire, Showbiz Comedy  |   Run Time - 138 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Craig Butler

Robert Aldrich's The Killing of Sister George is a powerful black comedy that continues to generate controversy over its portrayal of lesbian relationships. The central relationship is disturbing and fascinating, not due to the sex of the characters, but due to its sometimes abusive nature. Aldrich, whose work often is a mesmerizing mixture of luridness, camp, and insightfulness, is in top form here, creating a claustrophobic onscreen atmosphere that causes the audience itself to feel as trapped as the characters. George herself is the most trapped, but also the one that struggles the most against it -- and ironically the only one still trapped by film's end. Beryl Reid's towering performance is stunning. The viewer is appalled when watching her humiliate Childie with a cigar butt, yet somehow sympathetic. Reid makes the audience root for her and feel for her, even when she is at her most monstrous. And her final scene, standing amid the debris of a television studio and mooing, is both harrowing and heartbreaking. Susannah York and Coral Browne also turn in incredible performances, and their five-minute love scene is shocking both for its frankness and the naked intensity of desperate emotion they bring to it. Overlong, discomforting, and sometimes over-the-top in content, Sister George is still a unique experience.