Cult Movie: Up The Junction remains a glorious and vibrant snapshot of an era lost forever

Polly (Suzy Kendall) wants to move into the working class life for good, Pete (Dennis Waterman) just wants to get rich and escape it
Ralph McLean

Up The Junction

I'VE been a fan of Talking Pictures TV since it began broadcasting its wares free to air five years back. A lovingly crafted mix of old films, obscure shorts and long forgotten TV series, it was a TV channel that had my name written on it from the moment it opened its doors for business – I've been almost evangelical in my zeal to spread the word about its 24/7 cult friendly delights ever since.

In the recent murk of lockdown, however, I've found myself turning to Talking Pictures on an almost daily basis to get a little much needed cinematic balm for these troubled times. One recent rediscovery in its impressively eclectic schedules left a particularly deep impression on this old cult crusader, and I'd like to share it with you now.

Up The Junction was released to minimal fanfare in 1968 but it remains a glorious and vibrant snapshot of an era lost forever. Originally a 1963 book by Nell Dunn and later a television play delivered by Ken Loach, it's a tale of class division and youth culture in the 'swinging London' of the 1960s as a young Chelsea socialite crosses the river to see how the other half live and love in run-down Battersea.

With subplots of hard-won working class wisdom, a cutting portrayal of class politics in action and an infamous back street abortion storyline that caused considerable controversy at the time, it's not an easy or flippant story for sure.

Peter Collinson's film version smooths off some of the edges from that controversy and delivers something a little faster and glossier, but it still retains a power and poignancy that's truly impressive even today.

Suzy Kendall is Polly, the rich girl who decides to slum it on the factory floor and Dennis Waterman is Pete, the young working class mod who falls for her. While they're drawn to each other, their motivations clash: Polly wants to move into the working class life for good, Pete just wants to get rich and escape it – and true love doesn't run smoothly.

There are memorable performances from the likes of Adrienne Posta and Maureen Lipman as mouthy mates of Polly's from the sweet factory she works in and there's a fabulous soundtrack of late 60s pop and jazz from Manfred Mann to enjoy as well.

The period footage of London as the swinging bubble is in the process of bursting is beautiful to behold and Kendall is seriously cool as Polly, while Waterman rocks a chunky poloneck with impressive ease while guiding his scooter around the back streets of Battersea. Collinson would go on to direct the much flashier The Italian Job, but you can see his eye for real locations and brash modernist colours was honed on films like this.

Those seeking the really grim social commentary should try and seek out the Ken Loach TV drama, but everyone else can just wallow in the glorious 1960s beauty and sadness on show here.

It's another undervalued gem unearthed by Talking Pictures.

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