'The Strange Affair' (1968) is a fairly standard police drama, enlivened by director David Greene’s gentle counter cultural flourishes and a great score of noodling guitars and polite free jazz from the incredible Basil Kirchin.
The story concerns new police constable Tom Strange (fresh-faced Michael York, resembling a less pustulent Cristiano Ronaldo) who, in the course of about two weeks, goes from being an optimistic and principled young copper ("I believe in principles of order; the inevitability of justice") to a disgraced criminal with a scabby hole in either cheek after getting embroiled in cover-ups and fit-ups and impaled on the wrong end of a gangster’s electric drill.
The film begins by portraying a lost ‘Blue Lamp’ world of friendly bobbies strolling around bombsite London, chuckling at naughty kids (and, at one point, helping someone to flytip an old mattress!) before ramping up the violence and corruption levels to ‘Sweeney’ proportions. Interestingly, corruption is shown from both angles: police officers that take bribes to turn a blind eye to crime; police officers that bend the law to punish criminals – with the latter seemingly turning out to be the less acceptable of the two evils.
Strange’s love interest is played by young, toothy Susan George, a promiscuous, underage, face-painted hippy called Fred who follows a hairy group called The Hieronymus Bosch, and isn’t satisfied until she’s shared a bath, a bed and a giant inflatable ball (you’ll need to see the clip below) with the idealistic new recruit. To her credit, she sticks with him, even after his impromptu face drilling, but that may be motivated by guilt after finding out that their bath, bed and ball session was secretly filmed by her permissive, immoral Aunt and Uncle, and is now doing the rounds in every porn pit in Soho.
Throw an obsessive Sergeant into the mix (the ridiculously over-expressive Jeremy Kemp) and an ex-bent-copper turned gang lord running a drugs ring out of Battersea Heliport with the aid of a his two grinning, psychotic Mod sons, a sexy air hostess and a Maharishi clone with an army of white clad followers, then you have just enough elements to keep you occupied for ninety minutes, even if you’re never quite on the edge of your seat. Still, a nice spin on a familiar theme and nice music, too, here serving as a slinky soundtrack to the aforementioned ‘big ball’ scene.