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Return to Waterloo 1984
Description: A boy taking the train to work one morning is overcome by melancholy memories and morbid fantasies.
Released: 17 May 1985 Director: Ray Davies Writers: Ray Davies Actors: Tim Roth, Kenneth Colley, Claire Parker, Ray Davies Genres: Musical, Drama
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Return to Waterloo Reviews:

The ambiguity of everything in this movie is its hook and its fascination.The Traveller *may* be a serial rapist. He *may* be an incestuous kid abuser. He *may* be unemployed but pretending to still have a job. And so on.And Ray isn't telling; we have to decide for ourselves.Ray Davies is, after all, the boy who wrote "Lola" -- the song whose entire meaning turns on the listener's interpretation of one of the most ambiguous sentences ever written in the English language.Many of the songs from the movie -- in various arrangements -- are to be found on the Kinks' "Word of Mouth" album. There is also a "Return" soundtrack album -- nice luck finding a copy.


SPOILERS INCLUDEDReturn to Waterloo is an impressive, offbeat 60 minute detail made for Channel 4 by Ray `The Kinks' Davies in 1984. A middle-aged commuter (Ken Colley) known only as ‘The Traveller' appears to suffer a mental breakdown while on a train between Guildford and Waterloo. He starts to have fantasies about his fellow passengers bursting into song a la Dennis Potter. Fat Thatcherite businessmen test to seduce a new faced associate to their method of thinking,singing claims of ‘play the minigame and you'll be one of us'. Elsewhere violent punks terrorise their fellow passengers by blasting out a nihilist song named ‘Sold Me Out' from their ghetto blaster and elderly WW2 veterans remark ‘what has this nice nation become' as the train passes a graveyard. Things become far more darker as the train ride progresses,The Traveller starts imagining the punks beating the another passengers then dragging them into the aisle ready to be shot in the head,a blind old granny has her dark glasses pulled off revealing her white zombie-like eyes,she then produces a large knife and proceeds to stab her aggressor to death,and the Traveller imagines himself flying into a rage decapitating folks on the train with his briefcase,a stage in which his victims are represented by department shop mannequins. All rather bizarre. Oh and of course there is also the tiny matter that the Traveller may or may not be a rapist and serial killer. A copy of The Sun which he brings on the train with him carries the headline ‘Have you seen this face?–rapist sought' and the photo-fit on the cover looks allot like the traveller. Something which doesn't go unnoticed by the another commuters. Adding to the traveller's woes is the memory of his teenage daughter who has run away from home. There is the creepy implication of incest in flashbacks of him accidentally walking into her room while she's naked and even the chance of murder as-in other fantasy scene-we soon see her on a morgue table turning round to embrace him. Return to Waterloo has a circular plot,beginning and ending with the traveller stalking a blond girl he's followed from the train in the underground,on his murderous method he's eyeballed by a busker (Davies himself, doing a Hitchcock like cameo) who sings the film's haunting theme tune ‘look at all the folks around me,same old faces joining the queue,for a return to Waterloo'. Among the interesting helping cast are a very young looking Tim Roth (as the lead punk),Gretchen Franklin as a gossip giving the traveller dirty looks; the movie also details cameos from Weatherman Michael Fish and Agony Aunt Claire Rayner as themselves. For its director Return to Waterloo seems to have acted as an experimental break from his day job,at the time the movie was made The Kinks were back in the charts and the public consciousness-due in no tiny part to MTV airplay of their Come Dancing video. The band had been signed to the Arista label in the late 70's under the condition that they would produce straightforward pop albums,the lead singer's previous forays into eccentric idea albums like Preservation Acts 1 and 2,Schoolboys in Disgrace and Soap Opera were clearly out of the question in this environment. Judging by the end effect it looks as if Davies envisioned Return to Waterloo as a type of idea album on film. It's shot in the style of an ongoing series of pop videos and dialogue is mostly eschewed in favour of Kinks songs especially written for the movie which act as a commentary on the narrative. Davies' song writing skills more than making up for the almost finished lack of dialogue. Return to Waterloo seems each bit as disillusioned with the times as the central character,from the punks to the greedy businessmen the movie holds them all in contempt,the only hero Return to Waterloo seems to have total sympathy for is the traveller's wife who believes her husband is having an affair and is the topics of the touching song ‘Lonely Hearts' whose lyrics are in the style of an agony aunt letter,which in situation you were wondering is where Claire Rayner enters into the proceedings. Return to Waterloo caused a considerable rumpus within The Kinks,especially agitated was Dave Davies who felt ‘the solo project' was taking up to much of brother Ray's time,when he could be focusing on The Kinks and making the most of their fresh lease of life as an 1980's stadium rock band (Dave may have had a point,the band stopped touring in order to finished the film's soundtrack and their next album sold badly compared to their newest output). The movie itself wasn't gratis of interference either,Davies soon claimed that the film's backers were uneasy about the content,specifically they felt The Traveller could be sympathetically depicted which may explain why the movie remains somewhat cryptic over whether he really is the ‘Surrey rapist'. There is the Soap Opera-like implication that the entire thing is the delusion in the mind of a sad,unimportant tiny boy dreaming he's a serial assassin (or in the situation of Soap Opera a rock star) in order to escape his suitably drab day-to-day existence. A several years soon Davies would revisit the storyline (a Return to Return to Waterloo,if you like) in his ebook Waterloo Sunset which firmly paints The Traveller as the guilty party and contains graphic features which would have been unthinkable for TV broadcast in the mid-Eighties. Even in the slightly compromised movie ver however Return to Waterloo disturbs far more than many British horror movies of the period,and amusingly–although surely unintentionally-the movie shares the idea of a bored train passenger drifting off into a series of wild fantasies with Derek Ford's Diversions a.k.a. Sex Express. Well worth searching out,Return to Waterloo remains shamefully neglected in its country of origin,it's rarely been repeated by Channel 4,is difficult to track down on video and is only accessible on DVD in the US.


Ray Davies' Return To Waterloo could stand up in British culture at least as high as The Who's Tommy and even Pink Floyd's The Wall.The telling " the mass of boys lead lives of quiet desperation" Has everytime been specifically applied to the British middle classes, and never more so that to Ken Colley's rendition of the Traveller, continuing his everyday pilgrimage to Waterloo, to his Estate Agent's Job in the centre of London, despite his possible mental breakdown , or the more disturbing realisation that he may ( or may not ) be the sought after Surrey Rapist.Like any Rock Opera, what makes this production is the quality of the songs, from the children at the platform mickying "ladder of success," to the hauntingly pretty ( and tearfullly sad ) "Have you seen this face" Davies manages to hold many chances and happenstances open, until you are unsure if what you are seeing from the Traveller is a collection of morning train daydreams, the visions of a quick decaying mind, or guilt aligning itself to reality and cognisance and the important reparations.Pete



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