Patrick Malahide as Dr. Colworth in The Final Curtain (2002).

Dr. J. Colworth, eminent Harley Street physician.

In 2002, Patrick Malahide appeared as Dr. Colworth in the dark comedy-drama “The Final Curtain” (not to be confused with the Inspector Alleyn Mystery with the same name). Dr. Colworth is an eminent Harley Street physician who diagnoses aging game show host and “national treasure” JJ Curtis (Peter O’Toole) with cancer.

JJ is in the early stages of trying to break into the American television market and has also engaged the brilliant up-and-coming young writer Jonathan Stitch (Adrian Lester) to pen his memoirs. Matters are complicated by young and edgy rival game show host, Dave Turner (Aidan Gillen), who is starting to beat JJ in the ratings and is also making a play for the States. Obviously, Dr. Colworth’s diagnosis could not possibly come at a worse time.

Delivering Bad News

But he manages to spit it out “Jay….Jay.”

Dr. Colworth first appears while giving JJ the bad news. JJ starts out incredibly upbeat, even though it is painfully obvious from the start what is coming up. JJ charismatically implores Dr. Colworth to “call me JJ.” Dr. Colworth practically rallies himself to force out a very reluctant “Jay…..Jay.” He then tries to get to the point, describing how he’d hoped JJ’s loss of weight and chronic pain would have had some benign cause.

JJ then goes on about some family who didn’t make his show. Colworth is taken aback at such silliness.

JJ, no stranger to delivering bad news,  tells Dr. Colworth how he recently had to tell a family eager to appear on his game show that they just didn’t have star quality. JJ shakes his head in a mock shudder….”imagine” he whispers darkly.  Dr. Colworth is incredulous at such banality.  Obviously he has somewhat worse news to deliver. “I think this is a more serious matter. I’m very sorry to have to tell you, but it’s cancer.”

We don’t see what follows immediately, but we soon learn JJ is not a co-operative patient. Despite the fact that the cancer is brutally painful, and Peter O’Toole truly conveys jarring pain, JJ proves a very difficult patient. Dr. Colworth can’t even get hold of him to discuss treatment options.

X-Rays and Yachts

“There is no question about the diagnosis.” He looks awed by the x-ray.

Dr. Colworth, wearing a very fetching pair of paisley suspenders and contrasting necktie, tries phoning JJ, but only gets his answering machine. He is holding an ominous looking x-ray. “Look, I don’t think you’re facing up to this condition of yours. There’s no question about the diagnosis…” As he speaks, a brief look of horrified awe washes over his face. It is a very ominous x-ray indeed.  With that facial expression, Mr. Malahide lets us know intense the cancer must be.

Casually thumbing through a copy of Yachts & Yachting.

Taking on a gentler more bargaining tone Dr. Colworth offers to pop around and see JJ at his place. At that point he exchanges the x-ray for a copy of “Yachts & Yachting” which is fitting as his office is decorated with charming yachting themed artwork. High end yachts must be one of the perks of being an eminent Harley Street physician who attends the rich and famous. I’m sure Dr. Colworth is a genuinely concerned doctor who works hard for his patients, but it is clear that he too has in own agenda in this dark film.

Persistence Doesn’t Pay Off

Patrick Malahide’s own handwriting.

Eventually Dr. Colworth can wait no longer and tries to catch JJ at his home, yelling for him through the letter slot. He receives no reply. “Damn!” He slips a note through the letter slot. Eagle eyed RFodchuk noticed that the handwriting is actually Patrick Malahide’s own, so he wrote the note in his own hand. 🙂

JJ arrives home with his biographer Stitch and spies Dr. Colworth standing outside. He tells Stitch that Dr. Colworth is a stalker. Well, I guess it is kind of true since Dr. Colworth has been terribly persistent, but he’s obviously not the sort of deranged stalker Stich imagines. JJ tells Stitch not to hesitate if the stalker tries anything.

Stitch grabs a bin lid…

JJ angrily approaches Dr. Colworth demanding he stop harassing him. Dr. Colworth is pleading with JJ, but JJ will have none of it. “There is nothing wrong with me.” JJ turns it into a tussle screaming for Stitch to help him. As Dr. Colworth holds onto JJ, trying desperately to calm him, Stitch suddenly runs up from behind and whacks Dr. Colworth with a metal dustbin lid. Dr. Colworth falls hard and is in a very bad way. JJ is relieved, “Well done, Stitch.”

Stitch is horrified at what he has done.

Stitch, a naturally gentle person, is horrified at what he has done. He wanted to protect JJ from a stalker but not hurt anyone. With great relief he sees that Dr. Colworth is still breathing and says he’ll call an ambulance. But, JJ tells him to just get out of there and says he’ll call the ambulance and tell them that it was the work of a mugger.

As Stitch runs off, JJ puts away the phone and pulls on a pair of gloves. Meanwhile, poor Dr. Colworth, his head covered in blood, is lying on the ground twitching slightly. JJ, claims to have no disease and grabs the dustbin lid smashing it brutally over Dr. Colworth’s head.

A Hard Scene to Watch

JJ sends Stitch away, promising to call for help, but decides to finish the job instead.

That scene was very hard to watch! I’ve certainly seen a lot of violence in film and television, but I really don’t like seeing it inflicted on Patrick Malahide characters. But, that said, it was a very well acted scene from all involved with a mixture of tension, fear, terror and fury.

Of course, Stitch later realizes that he was “stitched up” when he learns the truth about Dr. Colworth. As for Dr. Colworth, he is in a coma for a time before passing away. It is a horrible end for such a well regarded doctor and it changes the Stitch/JJ dynamic for good since JJ now has Stitch truly under his thumb.

Other Cast Members

Aidan Gillen as Dave Turner.

As for the rest of the film, well you’ll just have to watch it. I will say that I really liked it. It is a different sort of film. It is actually pretty twisted, but I mean that in a good way. All of the performances are strong. Peter O’Toole is a vicious conniving horror as JJ Curtis, but he does have a good side that comes to light through a sweet encounter with a young boy who appears on his game show.

Aidan Gillen is very good as the edgy alternative entertainer who also has a very vulnerable side. Adrian Lester’s Stitch makes a great narrator and has principles and empathy through out. He is a victim, but he still has compassion for JJ.

Ian McNiece as an exasperated priest.

And there are a couple of smaller roles that I’ll mention because of their connections to other Patrick Malahide projects. Patrick Malahide’s frequent co-star Ian McNiece plays a wry priest who hears JJ’s confessions of which there are many. Mr. McNiece has appeared in “The Blackheath Poisonings, “Boon: In it for the Monet”, “Lovejoy: The Italian Venus”, and “The Beautician and the Beast”. And Charles Simon, who played the unpleasant hospital patient George Adams in the “Singing Detective”, is in “The Final Curtain” as Monty Franklin, JJ’s former co-star.

Wrap Up

Again, this is very good film. I just found it so different and intriguing. Patrick Malahide’s part isn’t very long, but it is ever so important.  He plays a really big part in the overall storyline.  While I found his death scene very brutal and hard to watch, I still enjoyed the creativity of the film immensely.  Seeing Patrick Malahide and Peter O’Toole on-screen together also proves to be a massive treat!  As with Morse “Driven to Distraction“, it is a wonderful “battle of the blue eyes.” 🙂

Gallery, courtesy of RFodchuk

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