Film Review – MAN AT THE TOP (1973)

MAN AT THE TOP (1973, UK) ***
Drama
dist. Anglo-EMI Film Distributors (UK), Ambassador Film Distributors (USA); pr co. Anglo-EMI / Dufton / Hammer Film Productions; d. Mike Vardy; w. Hugh Whitemore, John Junkin (based on characters created by John Braine); exec pr. Nat Cohen; pr. Peter Charlesworth, Jock Jacobsen; ph. Brian Probyn (Eastmancolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1 (original ratio), 1.75:1 (intended ratio)); m. Roy Budd; m sup. Philip Martell; ed. Chris Barnes; ad. Don Picton; cos. Laura Nightingale; m/up. George Blackler, Elaine Bowerbank; sd. Claude Hitchcock, Terry Poulton (Mono); rel. May 1973 (UK), May 1975 (USA); cert: 15; r/t. 92m.

cast: Kenneth Haigh (Joe Lampton), Nanette Newman (Alex), Harry Andrews (Lord Ackerman), John Quentin (Digby), Mary Maude (Robin Ackerman), Danny Sewell (Weston), Paul Williamson (Tarrant), Margaret Heald (Eileen), Angela Bruce (Joyce), Charlie Williams (George Harvey), Anne Cunningham (Mrs. Harvey), William Lucas (Marshal), John Collin (Wisbech), Norma West (Sarah Tarrant), Clive Swift (Massey), Jaron Yaltan (Harish Taranath), Tim Brinton (Newsreader), John Conteh (Black Boxer), Nell Brennan (Waitress), Patrick McCann (White Boxer).

Northerner Joe Lampton (Haigh) becomes involved with Lord Ackerman (Andrews), the powerful chairman of a pharmaceutical concern, his beautiful wife Alex (Newman), and daughter Robin (Maude). But trouble starts when Joe is made Managing Director of one of Ackerman’s companies and makes a shocking discovery: his predecessor committed suicide. Mixing business conspiracy and social comment this third cinematic take on John Braine’s ambitious working class career climber has its moments without ever really catching fire. Haigh’s performance lacks a certain subtlety, accurately capturing the nature of his character but making him a little too one-dimensional in the process. The moral that plays out is “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” and there is a certain hypocrisy in Lampton’s self-serving actions. The film is shot with an element of cold realism heightened by Budd’s spare score. Whilst Haigh is on screen the story is always interesting if its path leads to an unsatisfying, if inevitable, conclusion. Based on the TV series (1970-2), which in turn followed ROOM AT THE TOP (1959) and LIFE AT THE TOP (1965).