Beyond the snug and cosy realm of The Cad – roguishly superior, yes, but in the end loveably trivial – there is The Bastard. The Bastard does nasty things in a brutally cynical way, and is much harder to like than The Cad. There’s also the constant hint that, unlike The Cad, The Bastard secretly harbours something approaching remorse, and hates himself for what he is. In other words, The Bastard is infinitely more rounded as a type, and Denholm Elliot was truly the Bastard’s Bastard. His role as Charlie Prince defined his métier: one who’s seen enough of the world to decide he doesn’t like it, or anyone in it much, but might as well get what little he can out of the swines by any means necessary while he’s here. Thenceforth came his seedy abortionist in Alfie, ‘the finger of righteousness’ in the Night They Raided Minsky’s, the superior knob surgeon in the Percy films, and the similarly genitalian Peter Niss in The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer, plus innumerable other mountebanks. A fantastic actor. Just don’t lend him a tenner.
FINEST HOUR: There’s little to beat that squash-game-cum-school-for-cynics scene with Alan Bates in Nothing But the Best.