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‘…wonderfully awful so-bad-its great film, a ballet-based bonkbuster featuring la Joan Collins…’

NUTCRACKER, (aka NUTCRACKER SWEET), Joan Collins (center), 1982. ©Almi Pictures

Let’s have something racy from ‘off the curriculum’ as we head towards the mid-term break. Sure, we like to cover the latest blockbuster films here, and the coolest indies, but we also like to shine a light in the dank and dirty places that no-other-critic dares to go. It’s over 40 years since Anwar Kawadri’s monumentally tatty spy thriller hit the big screen, and it’s left a dent in pop culture proportionate to its quality; absolutely nothing. With three public reviews on imdb in four decades, and none from critics at all, and similarly sporting zero reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s my great honor to be the first in decades to put the boot into this wonderfully awful so-bad-its great film, a ballet-based bonkbuster featuring la Joan Collins.

‘How’s Alex? I hear he’s been stuffing a lot of salmon lately…’ Yes, if you enjoy English-as-she-is-spoke dialogue, you’ve come to the right place; with an international cast in place, Nutcracker has a script that sounds like its been through several rounds of Google Translate and back again. It’s the story of a Russian ballerina called, (looks up big book of Russian names), Nadia Gagarin, played by Finola Hughes from the equally madcap Staying Alive. Talented Nadia breaks her ankle on stage in the opening sequence, or does she? The Daily Mirror thinks so; “Russian Ballerina Breaks Ankle’ is the top story in the paper, servicing loyal readers who insist on knowing the latest about Russian ballerina injuries. But is Nadia Gagarin really injured, or is she defecting back to Russia, and the fake injury is just to allow time for her opressed family to be spirited to safety?

Arrant nonsense? We’ve barely started. Nadia Gagarin seeks refuge in a ballet company run by super-glam super-gran  Mme Laura Carrere (Collins) and her shifty sidekick Leopold (Ken Russell actor Murray Melvin, dressed as a court jester), Mme Carrere is a real ball-breaking nutcracker of a boss, uttering pro businesswoman chat like ‘It takes me ages to get through to Bombay…’. Such obvious acumen draws a crowd, like high-flyer Sir Arthur Cartwright (William Franklyn), while Leslie Ash plays Carrere’s brusque secretary Sharon, who keeps the riff-raff out. The riff-raff includes investigative reporter Mike McCann (Paul Nicholas) who realises he’s on the cusp of discovering what he claims is ‘the greatest story ever discovered’  but all seems rather tame in retrospect.

Nutcracker is, as Stefan would say, a film that has absolutely everything; backgammon, Wonder Woman costumes, the Abbey National logo seen in the original font, Joan Collins dressed as a Gustav Klimt painting, Bernie Clifton ostrich action, five consecutive shots of vintage British rail locomotives, that thing when someone pronounces ‘echelon’ in a surprising way but no-one else notices, Tatler magazine, women drinking red wine in circular babble-baths, caterwauling Kenny G-style sax music over multiple disrobings, and a rampant all-dancing Hooked On Classics finale set to a random cuts of classical music.

Not enough for you? Let’s sample some of the choice dialogue here. ‘He’s jumping off Tower Bridge in a machine powered by cow dung’ is an obvious quotable line that certainly gives a tart flavour of Nutcracker’s unique tone, but I pass on the following verbatim from my frantic note-taking session. ‘I am forward looking immensely to meeting you…’ ‘Margot, why don’t you just sit on my face?’ ‘But I’ve been obsessed with your disappearance for nearly 48 hours.’ Why don’t we do something tremendously kinky?’ ‘Like a unicorn she eats!’ There are good reasons why Nutcracker has been buried for four decades; perhaps now, we’ll understand its mind-curdling mix of Cold War political gibberish, women’s showers and pastel leotard prancing. Or perhaps not, but its fun trying.


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    • It’s Fabulous with a capital F! I had a laugh watching it, and all the terrible things about it somehow only make it more amusing. So Bad Its Good is a tricky genre, but this fits the criteria.

    • Is the correct answer.

      Glad you could join me for some analysis of this imprtant film in our cinematic culture.

      Drinking red wine in the bath, circular or otherwise, seems wrong to me, but I can’t think why…

  1. You had me at ” in the dank and dirty places that no-other-critic dares to go”, ir feels like a challenge especially after reading more of la Collins and co…. Yet, the pain of this movie is felt now… only wish I’d known you when I did the La Collins themed blogathon as noone discovered this movie… or perhaps they didn’t know who Bernie Clifton is…

    • I had you down as part of the potential audience for this one! Impossible to see until a vhs rip posted a few weeks back, so no regrets, this is the absolute cutting edge of retro journalistic activities. Paul Nicolas can only dream of such a scoop. And yes, it’s got a proper Bernie ostrich at the costume party finale, you won’t miss it!

  2. My goodness, you are brave, to go exploring where so many have tried, and failed, before. I bet Indiana Jones wouldn’t have even tried to watch this….

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