Review: The Uncle
DVD: The Uncle (1965)
Seven year old Gus Morton (played delightfully by a ‘so cute you could squeeze him until he explodes’ Robert Duncan) is a quiet and inquisitive young boy, but his world is turned upside down one summer when his much older sister, her husband and their rambunctious son Tom (a cheeky faced Christopher Ariss) come to stay for the summer.
Derided by his peer group for being an uncle at such a young age and wanting to hide from their constant chants of ‘Gus is an uncle, Gus is an uncle’, Gus retreats to his safe haven of an old abandoned house where he listens to music, drinks Tizer and talks to his budgerigar…mostly to teach him how to say “bloody damn“.
His relationship with Tom is capricious; one moment they are fellow cowboys on the adventure of a lifetime tracking a herd of cattle through a field, the next moment they are fighting and Gus (as usual) emerges harmed both physically and mentally.
Due to the volatile nature of his relationship with Tom and the perpetual goading from his peer group, Gus’ ‘best friend’ is Mr Ream who runs the local shop. A constant in Gus’ life for all of a child’s needs; sweets, drinks, water pistols, etc, Mr Ream and his shop are a calming oasis in what is otherwise a turbulent childhood.
As events escalate throughout the summer, Gus contemplates birth, life, death…and if he can ever get his budgie to say ‘bloody damn’.
The Uncle is a wonderful slice of childhood life in the 1960’s; trips to the local sweet shop, dressing up and creating your own adventures with friends, cap gun and water pistol battles, playing outside from sunrise until sunset, being dropped off by a parent in the middle of nowhere to play with your friends and make your own way back…things sure where different back then.
Released in the year that I was born (no sniggering at the back please you whippersnappers) watching The Uncle was like opening a time capsule of memories for me. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to be older to appreciate this movie, in fact I would thoroughly encourage younger people to watch it and learn how to embrace their childhood…though the ‘nanny state’ we live in now would probably deride much of the activities involved and proclaim the children and parents as irresponsible.
Directed by Desmond Davis (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Margaret Abrams; who wrote the original novel ‘The Uncle’ on which this is based on) the movie is filled with glorious dynamic hand-held camera work. Point of view shots play with the viewers perspective; swapping between a child’s (and in one case, a dog’s) interpretation of the world, before changing to the adults surrounding them. Sweeping camera moves follow Gus on his outside adventures with friends, before swooping around the abandoned house as he creates his own adventures by himself…accompanied by cartoon sketches and text that accentuate the story that is playing in his head.
A movie with no previous DVD or VHS release (that I can find!), The Uncle is a movie that everybody should watch, no matter what their age. Superbly presented by Network On Air from the original film negative, it belies the fact that it is now 50 years old.
Pour yourself a glass of tizer, have a bag of sweets beside you, and immerse yourself into the time of a much simpler childhood.
Special Features: Image Gallery.
Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Network On Air.