Quayle sets Churchill all of a Quiver
It's amusing that "Serious Charge" is promoted as a Cliff Richard movie whilst in fact he only has a very small part in it. In fairness he acts well and sings a few times but "Serious Charge" is really an Anthony Quayle movie, an interesting and at times entertaining drama. I say it's interesting because it is a social drama looking at juvenile delinquency in a small town during the 50s and delves into an almost darker side of teenage life. But whilst interesting it's not always entertaining and suffers due to an extended build up and not focusing enough on the darker side of the story.
Being relatively new in the town of Bellington, Reverend Phillips (Anthony Quayle - The Guns of Navarone) is trying to establish himself by reaching out to the youth of the town. As such he finds himself too busy and not interested in finding love, much to the annoyance of Hester Peters (Sarah Churchill) who finds herself falling for the handsome bachelor. When Phillips confronts Larry Thomspon (Andrew Ray), a young trouble maker, he finds his life crumbling from him when he is accused of sexual assault and with no way of proving his innocence finds himself being treated like a leper by the towns folk.
My main criticism of "Serious Charge" is that it takes too long to get to the main part of the movie. It goes through various interlinking stages as we go from Curly Thompson being in court for a first time offence, which links to introducing us to his troublesome brother and so on and so fourth. It almost seems like it's going around the houses in order to get to the actual main part of the movie where Larry accuses Reverend Phillips of sexual assault leading to the Reverend's life collapsing under accusations and prejudice. As such this build up feels almost overly intricate as it introduces various characters and building up relationships so that it can get to the main point. Yet whilst intricate it's not overly complicated and in many ways detracts from what is really the main part of the movie for me, the trouble that Reverend Phillips finds himself in.
All of which is a shame because there is a certain amount of cleverness to "Serious Charge". The way Larry ends up trapping the Reverend is smart as is the fact that no one can stand up and defend the Reverend. And aside from that the whole drama surrounding troublesome teenagers who disrespect authority has potential for being eye opening, with fights and pregnancies. But because director Terence Young seems more focussed on providing an intricate build up the potential is lost in the second half of the movie.
Despite being billed as a Cliff Richard movie the fact is that he only has a very small part and very few lines of dialogue to deliver. Although he does a very good job of impressing in such a small part, the three opportunities for him to sing seem a little contrived and manufactured so that his fans will get a dose of him doing what he does best.
In reality "Serious Charge" is an Anthony Quayle movie and he does a decent job of playing Reverend Phillips. The way the character builds so that in the first half we warm to him is marvellous and Quayle makes Phillips a friendly, sincere and likeable character. This means that when his life begins to crumble we sympathise with him and are gripped by his emotion as he is almost helpless to stop the rot going on in his life. Quayle is not the only good performance and Sarah Churchill does a solid job as Hester Peters, making it obvious that she has feelings for the handsome Reverend but not to the point that it is over the top. And Andrew Ray almost steals the movie as troublesome teenager Larry especially during the one on one scenes with Anthony Quayle where his youthful energy dominates the proceedings.
What this all boils down to is that "Serious Charge" is a good movie. The whole storyline of a Reverend being accused of sexual assault is clever as is the way it develops. It's just a shame that director Terrence Young seems more focussed on delivering an intricate build up rather than fully exploring the ramifications of when the Reverend is accused of sexual assault, almost skipping over things to keep things on the more pleasant side rather than becoming a dark tale. But despite this "Serious Charge" is entertaining and interesting as well as being worthwhile watching just for the performances of Anthony Quayle and Andrew Ray.