Bogard takes on a highly dangerous experiment in this
interesting horror themed British science film. Optimum UK R2 DVD.
Sharpey boards a train from London, back to his University in Oxford,
but along the route he hurls himself from the train to his death - in
his bag is found to be a thousand pounds in cash. Major Hall of
the intellegence services had been following the professor and believes
that he sold secrets to the Soviets shortly before his death, but the
professor's colleagues are sure he would not have done this. It emerges
that Sharpey had been working on a strange project, into sensory
isolation, and his former partner Dr. Henry Longman believes that
this could have enabled Sharpey to be brainwashed, so he sets out to
clear his friend's name by subjecting himself to the same proceedure,
knowing that he could come out the other end as a completely different
The Mind Benders
is a very interesting example of a science film, not science fiction.
It was inspired by a series of experiments by American physician John
C. Lilly into sensory deprivation, the removal of all external
stimuli and its effect on the human brain - the writer here is very
careful to follow the real proceedures of these experiements to add some good realism. Instead
of science fiction the crux here is more horror tinged with the idea
of a man becoming completely within the control of another and being
little more than a 'zombie'. The espionage that frames the story is only very briefly covered, avoiding the film becoming a Bond style thriller.
noticably, although filmed in the 1960s the film
feels more like an early 1950s production and often is more remniscent
of a radio play than a film - it is almost entirely dialogue based,
slowly paced and despite the premise we do not get any psychadelic
surrealism that the same film made in the 1970s would have contained,
particularly if a director like Joseph Losey had been at the helm.
Fortunately the story and characters are compelling enough to keep
you interested, and there are some good twists that boost the rather
Director Basil Dearden does a solid job
here, keeping the film flowing despite the slow pacing and dialogue
heavy plot. Although most of the film is shot in an almost documentary
style (very remniscent of Val Guest's work on the Hammer sci-fi films)
there are some very alien shots of the subjects floating in the sensory
deprivation tank that tease of the story's surreal potential. Composer Georges Auric, most at home on the Ealing
comedies, provides the occasional soundtrack, that does add to many of
the film's more dramatic scenes.
biggest boost in the film's favour is the very high calibre of acting
on display. Dirk Bogard takes the lead role and plays it to perfection,
from the earnest and eager scientist at the start, to the callous and
uncaring man who emerges. John Clements gives an incredibly restrained
performance as the Major, while Michael Bryant looks very haunted as
Dr. Tate. There are a few familiar faces in the rest of the cast,
including Geoffrey Keen (James Bond's Minister of Defence) as head of the University department and a very young Edward Fox (Battle of Britain (1966)) making his film debut as a student.
Slow paced and talky throughout, The Mind Benders will
probably disappoint anyone expecting surrealism or an action packed
thriller, but with a compelling storyline and some top class acting, it
should appeal to any fans of intellegence science fiction or horror.
famous in it?
Dirk Bogard - the British star, best known for his lead role in the war film A Bridge Too Far (1977)
Directed by anyone
Basil Dearden - a little known British director who shot several well
known films, including the pioneering British horror film Dead of Night (1945), and the truely epic Khartoum (1966).
Any gore or violence ?
Some light hints, but nothing seen.
Who is it for?
This film is recommended to fans of slow, plot based films.
Aspect Ratio - 1.66:1 widescreen. Anamorphically enhanced. Black and White.
The film is very strong visually, with almost no print damage and only light grain.
Original English mono - sounds fine.
(UK, Europe) - PAL
Available on DVD in the US from Anchor Bay with a similarly good print, also includes the theatrical trailer.
The film is believed to be fully uncut. English language print. For
American release the film was trimmed to 100 minutes (from a 109 minute
run-time). Both this, and the ABUS print are the full, original British
A very interesting and well acted film, although it will probably be too slow for many viewers. Recommended
A solid print, although sadly completely lacking in extras.