Women in Love (1969) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Two thumbs down for an overrated film - but one which has some historical significance.

Scoop's comments in white:

In England, circa WW1, an artist named Gudrun (Glenda Jackson), and her schoolteacher sister Ursula (Jennie Linden) fall in love with a couple of fine gentlemen from the wealthy class (Alan Bates and Oliver Reed). The two relationships take very different directions. One couple learns to love each other in a traditional marriage. The other couple comes into conflict, struggling for domination. The foursome takes a Swiss honeymoon, during which Gudrun engages in an affair with a bisexual sculptor, causing her enraged husband (Reed) to flee into the mountains and  wander about until he freezes to death. The other man (Bates) then philosophizes about the mystery of relations between men and women.

Women in Love was groundbreaking twice: once as a novel, once as the eponymous film.

  • The book, written in the WW1 era, presented the independence of women in the brightest light then possible in literature. Because the novel was filled with doubts about the sanctity and necessity of marriage, and because D.H. Lawrence treated women as highly sexual beings, D.H. Lawrence shocked his own time and led the way toward the sexual revolution of the 1920s.
  • The movie version played a similar role in the sexual revolution of the late 60s. It was daring in three respects:
    • There was an extended nude wrestling match between Alan Bates and Oliver Reed, complete with extensive frontal nudity from both of them. (This is the primary reason why the film is remembered today, if at all. Mention this film to someone from my era, and you'll see that glimmer of recognition when you say, "you know, it's the one where the two guys wrestle stark naked for five minutes".)
    • There were explicit sexual encounters on several occasions.
    • There was a bisexual man in make-up

Many of those once-powerful elements are no longer shocking by today's standards. The psychological and sexual aggressiveness of women is well accepted today, and the male/female scenes that shocked in 1969 are completely tame by our standards, so there's not much of erotic stimulation for you heterosexual men. On the other hand, for those of you who like to look at naked men, Women in Love is the Holy Grail of male cinema nudity. The nude wrestling match between Bates and Reed still stands today as the zenith of male homoerotica in mainstream cinema. Although female nudity in mainstream films has gone far beyond what you see in this film, male nudity has not. Imagine, if you will, a five minute nude wrestling match between Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, in which every inch of their bodies is exposed to the camera in loving detail. Hard to picture that ever happening? Well, that would be the equivalent of what you see in this film!

Apart from the nude male wrestling match, you probably can't get a sense of how revolutionary this film was if you are younger than 45. Things have changed too much for you to be able to "feel" the context that existed then. The middle 60s were a time when film nudity was infrequent, seen most likely in foreign language films or softcore films, neither of which were shown in mainstream suburban theaters. Unlike today, when even the biggest stars (Kidman, e.g.) strip down, you never saw major actors and actresses naked. This film broke the mold. Glenda Jackson, Alan Bates, and Oliver Reed were considered top-notch, Oscar-worthy stars, and this was considered an intellectual movie. D.H. Lawrence's work was considered serious literature. In fact, the pretentious, stuffy intellectualism of the characters' conversations is what made the nudity possible. After all, it was difficult for anyone but the most rigid moralist to condemn a movie which was praised by the Movie Academy and The New York Times. In the context of the times, the boring philosophical bits in the movie made the film acceptable for "good boys" to see. Even my mom thought it was OK for me to see this movie. My mom, for heaven's sake! For suburban dweebs like me, the artiness and lofty literary pedigree of the film meant that we could see some sex and breasts, assuming we were willing to endure boring speeches and naked guys.

In those days, it was a small price to pay.

It's a different story today, when you can see mainstream actresses naked without having to listen to windbags or look at their nutsacks.

Oh, yeah ... the movie ....

  • Looks great. Beautiful, highly-saturated photography evoking the period, especially as it looked in the English countryside. There is one visually dazzling scene in which Oliver Reed comes upon drowned lovers entwined on the bed of a drained lake. Although the new DVD transfer is letterboxed, the colors are beautiful and the transfer is nearly pristine.
  • Boring as hell. Lawrence's ideas seem to have been totally revolutionary when the novel was written, and were still fresh and topical in the late sixties, when the movie was made. Unfortunately most of the film is filled with philosophizing and pontificating about those very ideas, which now seem trite and sophomoric.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Widescreen letterboxed 1.66:1

  • Commentary by director Ken Russell

  • Commentary by writer-producer Larry Kramer

  • Theatrical trailer(s)



Glenda Jackson and Jennie Linden showed breasts more than once. Sharon Gurnay showed buns, and breasts from the side.

Oliver Reed and Alan Bates showed the full monty


Women in Love (1969) is a daring-for-its-time portrayal of the D. H. Lawrence novel by the same name. The novel was, in good Lawrence fashion, very shocking for its time, and this film achieved the same shock value in 1969 with unprecedented nudity and on screen sex, including a 15 minute male nude wrestling scene between the two hottest actors in Great Britain. Plot summary is simple. Two middle class sisters, one a teacher and the other a sculptor, land the two most eligible upper class men in their town. One of the relationships sticks, the other doesn't.

Scoopy has some enthusiasm, both because it was a landmark for nudity in mainstream film, and because he had fond recollections of being allowed to see breasts in the theaters in the 60s, because it was an art film based on a great work of literature.

I didn't see in in 1969 (I think I was on a freighter in the Panema Canal when it was released) and had no such nostalgic link to the film. I found it a very long, slow watch, and didn't really care about a single one of the characters. The film is filled beginning to end with pretentious dialogue and very little action. It is beautifully filmed, and a landmark for film nudity, but, unless it is your sort of film, it is weak in entertainment value.

The Critics Vote

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The People Vote ...


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this film is a C. It's not as shocking today as it once was, and it's boring, but it still looks great, and 30 years later it's still the ultimate film for male celebrity nudity.

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