Prick Up Your Ears, directed by Stephen Frears tells the story of Joe Orton (Gary Oldman) and Kenneth Halliwell (Alfred Molina) in flashback, with sequences of Lahr researching the book upon which the film is based with Orton’s literary agent, Peggy Ramsay (Vanessa Redgrave).
Orton and Halliwell’s relationship is followed from the beginning when Orton was a teenager befriended by the older and reserved Halliwell at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. They both dream of becoming writers but it is Orton who grows increasingly confident and achieves success and fame when his plays ‘Entertaining Mr Sloane’ and ‘Loot’ are big hits in sixties London.
Meanwhile, Halliwell’s writing has stagnated. Their relationship takes on the parody of a traditional married couple, with the cocky Orton being the husband and the insecure Halliwell, the long-suffering and ignored wife. Halliwell, being the older of the two always felt that he was Orton’s mentor. Matters deteriorate further when Orton is commissioned to write a screenplay for the Beatles. Halliwell is excited about meeting the ‘Fab Four’ but Orton is taken alone to meet with them. Finally, although Orton is the love of his life, Halliwell kills him and then commits suicide.
“This movie opens with a brutal, senseless crime. By the time the movie is over, the crime is still brutal, but it is possible to comprehend.”
— Roger Ebert
“Still stands up extraordinarily well.”
— Andrew Pulver, The Guardian
“Prick Up Your Ears is more effective in dramatizing the sexual games played by Orton and Halliwell, including Orton’s brazenly frank encounters in the men’s rooms of London, which both fascinated and enraged his friend.”
— Vincent Canby, The New York Times
Did You Know?
In Prick Up Your Ears, the interior of Joe and Ken’s flat was filmed in the actual flat where Orton lived with Halliwell, although the murder scene was filmed on a studio set.
The title created by Kenneth Halliwell is a pun, ‘Prick’ having an off colour connotation and ‘Ears’ being an anagram for an area of the anatomy. The title was originally created for the Beatles film ‘Up Against It’ which was never actually produced. Review our Gay Themed Films Here