With a grand total of eight reviews from press and public on imdb, it’s safe to say that John Osborne’s Inadmissible Evidence isn’t the talk of the town; film historians, however, could do worse than check out this 1968 film version of the play. Sure, it’s been forgotten, but Osborne is one of the great dramatists of the 20th century, the film has a monumental central performance by Nicol Williamson, and the desire to puncture and punish the bigoted, misogynist white male chimes neatly with today’s sensibilities about toxic men.
Bill Maitland (Williamson) is a lawyer, and a lousy one too. Clients stalk out of his office mid meetings, he can’t even be bothered taking notes. In court, his papers are a muddled mess and his colleagues despise him. His wife wants a divorce, his mistresses are frustrated, he abuses his position to make moves on any woman he encounters professionally, mainly secretaries, and Maitland’s waspish wit doesn’t get him anywhere; he’s someone you’d cross the road to avoid.
Osborne dedicates the full length of his adaptation of his own play to capturing Maitland’s awfulness; he’s not an empathetic character, but he is dramatic to watch, particularly seen from 2021, where his attitudes can be clearly seen as genuinely horrific. One sequence shows him wasting time in Soho as he prepares to returns to his workplace and seduce a secretary he’s asked to work late; Maitland tries to get himself riles up drinking pints and watching strippers, and the mood of the moment is lonely and desperate. The observation of the banal exchanges of a dinner party is similarly caustic and accurate, as are the painful professional interviews with potential divorcees; Osborne sees all, and jots it down without considering whether we’ll like it or not; it’s just the way things are, or as the playwright observes them
Inadmissible Evidence was a stage-play of some repute, and for once, the film improves on that, with some arty cutting and ingenious use of monologue juxtaposed over terse black and white visuals. Williamson is on top form here under Anthony Page’s direction, and the whole package is recommended to anyone interested in theatre, law, or the unspoken, unending process of atrophy in British establishment morals.