Brimstone & Treacle

[Updated: May 15,1999]

Brimstone & Treacle

In one of his more substantive roles, Sting gives a seductive performance as a devilish intruder into a suburban English familyís home in Brimstone & Treacle (1982). The Grand Prize Winner at the 1982 Montreal Film Festival, the film has a theatrical feel, which is not surprising considering that it was adapted from a controversial play of the same name by Dennis Potter (who also wrote the filmís screenplay). The film version is directed by Richard Loncraine and stars veteran British character actors Denholm Elliott and Joan Plowright (Thomas and Norma Bates) as a couple whose marriage has fallen into a paralyzing rut, in large part because their lives must revolve around the perpetual care of their daughter Patricia (Suzanna Hamilton), who was rendered a physical and mental invalid by an accident four years earlier.

Enter Sting. His character, Martin Taylor, cons his way into the Batesí home and wreaks havoc on the Bates family with, as the title hints, an alternately angelic and demonic charm that a television evangelist would envy (check out his fervent Swaggartesque "prayer" at Patriciaís bedside). Martin exposes the family truth lying behind Patriciaís "accident," and provides a decidedly nonmedical "cure" for Patricia in a climactic scene so controversial that Potterís play (which, like many of his works, was written for television) was banned by the BBC from 1976 until 1987.

Sting also made musical contributions to the film in what was essentially his debut as a solo artist. An instrumental arrangement of "I Burn For You" emerges recurrently, faintly underscoring Martinís lustful intentions. Also, Stingís gleeful rendition of "Spread a Little Happiness" can be heard over the closing credits, as an ironic postscript to the film. With an accompanying video that features Sting as a frolicking priest, "Spread a Little Happiness" became his first solo single (released in the UK in 1982); its b-side, "Only You," is also part of the Brimstone & Treacle soundtrack.

Brimstone & Treacle

Pennies From Heaven Films (UK)



87 minutes

Directed by: Richard Loncraine

Produced by: Alan E. Salke (United Artists Classics)

Herbert F. Solow (United Artists Classics)

Kenith Trodd (Sherwood Productions)

Written by: Dennis Potter

(based on his play of the same name)


Martin Taylor Sting
Thomas Bates Denholm Elliott
Norma Bates Joan Plowright
Patricia Bates Suzanna Hamilton
Businessman Benjamin Whitrow
Stroller Dudley Sutton
Valerie Holdsworth Mary MacLeod
Clergyman Tim Preece


Cinematography Peter Hannan
Editing Paul Green
Music Sting
Art Direction Milly Burns

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