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A Day At The Beach


‘…a bitter, aggressive film that mirrors the fecklessness of the main character…’

An obscure, largely unreleased Peter Sellers film that I only found out about while researching another obscure, unfinished Peter Sellers film, (Ghosts in the Noonday Sun), A Day at the Beach is one of these unheralded films that make delving into obscurity worthwhile. Based on a book by Dutch author Heere Heeresma, this feels like an early film by Paul Verhoeven, but actually was directed by Simon Hesera, not a name that means much today. There’s a few reasons why this film generally rests in darkness, but it’s worth shining a light on the positives first.

In a dour Netherland resort, Mark Burns plays Bernie, a raging alcoholic who pinballs between low-lifes and marks; he’s a con-man of a shambolic kind, usually with no motive other than to steal a drink, or the price of one, from his victims. Bernie takes a child he may or may not be the father of, a little girl called Winnie, for a day at the beach, but it’s cold, pouring with rain, and he’s more interested in finding opportunities to drown his sorrows. Played by Beatie Edney (later to go on to star in Highlander), Winnie is a cheerful soul despite a disability; her leg is in a brace, but she is determined to have a good time, even if her father/uncle’s attentions are fleeting.

Bernie and Winnie meets a number of strange characters on their travels, including Maurice Roeves as a typically angry Scottish poet, Jack MacGowran as an irritable deckchair attendant, and Graham Stark and Peter Sellers as a gay couple, two off-message, off-licence proprietors. A Day at the Beach was photographed by Gilbert Taylor, who went on to bring a similarly pallid light to Richard Donner’s The Omen, and the sense of decay and dread are palpable. This isn’t really a story film, more an existential scream, taking a lead from Albert Camus and his novel The Outsider, and predates Barfly, Leaving Las Vegas and other miserablist epics.

An uncommercial proposition at any time, A Day at The Beach was intended as a project for Roman Polanski, who adapted the book, but withdrew when his wife was murdered. That in itself might have been enough to KO any chances of acclaim, but the pervasive bleakness and troubling sub-texts of a child in jeopardy made sure that A Day At the Beach was genuinely lost to cinema history. And yet this is an effective film that hits its target of drunken machismo; it’s a bitter, aggressive film that mirrors the fecklessness of the main character, before leading him and us to the most downbeat of endings. A must-see for cinema historians, this film seems to be racking up a cult audience on line, and is worth alerting literature and film fans generally to its previously unknown existence.


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    • Considering how much awful stuff he made, worth celebrating this, not too wacky, but certainly odd…

                    • One headed people very much the norma in my neck of the woods, I would have thought that it goes without saying that a person only has one head, or is that special industry lingo?

                    • So you fix ears? Mine have been a bit funny for a bit. My doctor tells me one should not put anything in one’s ear more pointed than an elbow, so not sure what the problem is.

                    • No, hearing comes and goes in the right one. And I’m in my prime, thank you! So what is your diagnosis?

                    • Need to know the following:- have you been using headphones and listening to loud music/soundtracks? Have you got tinnitus (ringing or noises in the ear) if so is it there all the time, or just when you go deaf. Is there fluid coming out of it? How long has it been going on?

                    • Very rarely use headphones, only at gym, and not been there due to lockdown for a year. Think I just filter out any noises. No fluid. Going on and off for years. Have been warned off having them syringed, apparently not a good idea…is this consultation free?

                    • Well it’s either wax building up and shifting about covering the eardrum and blocking sound, then moving and letting sound in, or it could be Menieres disease. Maybe otosclerosis maybe not, could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. If it’s wax you could have them sucked rather than syringed. I don’t expect you’d pay if I charged you anyway, but I’d have a doc check it out when you’re able to see one.

                    • Replying to myself; thanks for this advice anyway, taking it seriously. I get the notion of wax settling, but it’s been settling on and off for years. My GP is good, but trying to keep out of his way right now so figured the internet is my best option…

                    • Difficult to diagnose really over the net, but if it’s been going on that long I doubt it’s wax. How long does the deafness last when it happens, and is it every day? more than once a day? does it cause dizziness?

                    • Weeks at a time, but I’ve leaned to live with it. It’s just one ear, the other one is fine. I’ll chase up my GP, but thanks for the thorough explanation. Generally squeamish about these things, had my nose broken four times (Glasgow) and had problems with pressure building up between wars and nose, so that might be something to investigate…no further questions, but appreciate your expertise! At least one of us something useful to share with the world…

                    • Weeks at a time not so good, so yes chase up the GP, you don’t want to risk losing the hearing permanently. I saw News of The World at the weekend after your review so you’re useful for that 😀 (my review up!)

                    • Syringing is using warm water to irrigate the ear canl, it pushes the wax out. Suction is using a medical suction unit with a fine bore sucker to pull the wax out.

                    • Different tools for different jobs. Suction is your thing? Why would one use suction rather than syringing?

                    • I do both, whichever is needed. You can’t do irrigation if someone has a perforated eardrum, so have to do suction then. Also it depends on the type of wax the person has, hard and crusty or soft and soggy, a pebble of wax or goopy stuff, whether they’ve been using oil to soften it, and also patient preference. Sometimes I have to do a combination so start with suction and end up with irrigation or vice a versa. There’s a fair bit to it.

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