Color, 1972, 91m.
Directed by John Dexter
Starring Anne Heywood, Harry Andrews, Jill Bennett, Paul Rogers, Phillip Bond, Michael Coles, Anthony Sharp
Scorpion (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

The highly-publicized sex change of Christine Jorgensen in 1952 was one of the biggest pop culture topics for decades to follow, inspiring a slew of offbeat projects ranging from a big studio biopic (1970's The Christine Jorgensen Story) to a gay camp classic (Dinah East) to a head-spinning Ed Wood, Jr. concoction (Glen or Glenda?). One of the more serious and well-intentioned of Christine's cinematic progeny is the 1972 British film, I Want What I Want, a starring vehicle for one of the era's bravest leading ladies, Anne Heywood (who had already appeared in the arty bisexual character study, The Fox).

Here Heywood is cast as Roy, a young man who unhappily exists in a body he feels should be that of a woman. His macho father (Andrews) doesn't take well to Roy's dilemma, especially when he catches sonny dressing up in his dead wife's accoutremenets. Roy doesn't want to be "fixed" and leaves home and takes up at a boarding house owned by two teachers (Bennett and Bond). Every day Roy transforms more into his new female identity, Wendy, but his family and friends prove to be difficult to navigate as our hero(ine) finds a new path in life.

Given the increasing freedoms both on movie screens and in civil liberties during the early '70s, it's surprising how restrained and considerate I Want What I Want is; there's very little sensationalism here as the film instead becomes a portrait of a personality grapping with issues of identity and loneliness. Heywood really gives it her all, and even if she makes a very unconvincing man for the initial portions of the film, she at least never descends into caricature or cheap sentiment. Most of the supporting characters are basically window dressing in comparison, but cult fans will get a kick out of seeing Bennett (a veteran of British horrors like The Nanny and The Skull as well as the 007 film For Your Eyes Only) here along with a small role for Anthony Sharp, who went on to creepy greatness in Pete Walker's The Confessional. This is also one of the few feature film scores by jazz musician Johnny Harris, who did wilder work on Fragment of Fear and The Evil; on the other hand, this was the last film in the brief career of the late theatrical director John Dexter, who had earlier helmed the quirky indie films Pigeons and The Virgin Soldiers.

Despite a minor theatrical release from Cinerama in the US, I Want What I Want became a longstanding VHS favorite in the '80s from Prism; copies were almost always checked out at mom and pop stores for years. After that it fell into oblivion for much of the DVD era, but Scorpion Releasing has brought it back to light again with a fresh transfer directly from the studio's materials; it's a little worn in spots but generally very good, certainly far better than the ancient VHS-era editions. The bulk of the transfer is framed at 1.78:1, a bit more open on the top and bottom than prior versions with what appear to be hard-matted 1.85:1 titles. As DVD Drive-In noted, the BBFC logged in a 105-minute running time when it was slapped with an X Certificate, but a version this long doesn't apper to exist on video; maybe it was a misprint or an early preview version. Extras include a Spanish trailer (also found on other Scorpion releases) and some appreciate liner notes by Dennis Dermody, who seems to take this one much more seriously than his giddy comments about Sextette (whose trailer is also included here along with others like Goodbye Gemini and Girly.

Reviewed on May 17, 2011.