Poor Cow (1967) - Rotten Tomatoes

Poor Cow (1967)

Poor Cow (1967)

Poor Cow



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Acclaimed British neo-realist filmmaker Ken Loach made his theatrical debut with this bleak kitchen-sink drama. Joy (Carol White) leads a life that makes her name seem like some sort of a cruel joke. Her husband Tom (John Bindon) is a second-rate burglar who shows neither her nor their infant child much affection. When Tom is jailed for theft, Joy is left on her own, until Tom's best friend Dave (Terence Stamp) invites her to stay with him. Dave is warm and caring in a way that Tom is not, and love begins to blossom between them. However, Dave also supports himself as a thief, and when he's arrested and put behind bars, Joy is left back where she started. Joy takes a job as a barmaid to support herself, and she is persuaded to pose nude for a photographer to bring in some extra money; she files for divorce from Tom and begins seeing other men. However, Tom wants to give their marriage another chance once he's released from prison, much to Joy's chagrin. Several clips with Terence Stamp were later used in The Limey (1999) to illustrate the earlier life of Stamp's character in that film. ~ Mark Deming, Rovimore
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Classics
Directed By:
In Theaters:


Queenie Watts
as Aunt Emm
Billy Murray
as Tom's Friend
Ellis Dale
as Solicitor
Paddy Joyce
as Governor in Photo St...
John Halstead
as Photographer
Rose Hillier
as Customer at Hairdres...
Julie May
as Woman in Sheppey
Philip Rose
as Shelley
Terry Duggan
as 2nd Prisoner
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Poor Cow

Critic Reviews for Poor Cow

All Critics (9) | Top Critics (5)

An argument can certainly be made for sex in movies that try to approach seriously the problems of the young; and this one, which begins so frankly with maternity, seems to have become quite nervous about things physical right after the credits came on.

Full Review… | March 14, 2015
New York Times
Top Critic

In the end, the few good moments (as when the girl tends bar, cares for her child and shares confidences with Terence Stamp) are lost in the mess of everything else.

Full Review… | March 14, 2015
Top Critic

Despite its scruffy scene and downhill theme, Poor Cow is not really another of England's angry proletarian tragedies. The film tells its story with humanity that is never sentimental and humor that never jokes.

Full Review… | March 14, 2015
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Not a patch upon Loach's best work, largely because he falls into all the usual traps of kitchen sink realism.

Full Review… | March 14, 2015
Time Out
Top Critic

Kenneth Loach uses an improvisatory technique in all this, and it largely works. Thesps were given the gist and trend of the dialog, and permitted to embroider it with their own words.

Full Review… | February 23, 2012
Top Critic

Not even Carol White as Joy, glowing with vitality and beautifully modulating the heroine's different moods, can make of Poor Cow more than a superficial, slightly patronising incursion into the nether realms of social realism.

Full Review… | March 14, 2015
Monthly Film Bulletin

Audience Reviews for Poor Cow


Interesting older movie. Main character, Joy, manages to be equally sympathetic and unlikeable! You watch this girl make one bad choice after another, yet the consequences aren't quite as bad as you are waiting for. In one way it is good, she is a stupid girl, but you can't seriously wish bad on her, even when she kind of deserves it. On the other, you wait for a culmination of her actions which doesn't quite pay off. I guess it is lifelike in that way.
On a shallow note, I enjoyed the 60's hair and make up. Very glam too look at, even though the story was definitely not!

Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer

Director Ken Loach's first feature is an insightful but somewhat shapeless portrait of a vivacious young woman (Carol White) struggling to raise a baby in a dingy English neighborhood. Within the opening minutes, her husband is sent to prison after a bungled robbery. She soon latches onto a second man (Terence Stamp) but, unfortunately, he too has been pressed into a life of crime. He is more sensitive to her needs but also is sentenced before long, which means Stamp fans may be frustrated with his lack of screen time. From there, our heroine takes a job in a rowdy pub, dabbles in cheesecake modeling and tries to fill her relationship void with casual lovers. There is no moral lesson here -- this is just how a woman on her own manages to stay afloat. The story fades out inconclusively.

Donovan provides a few tunes for the soundtrack (Stamp himself sings "Colours"), and various other pop songs are heard throughout -- almost as if a crew member's transistor radio is randomly playing in the background. The effect is a bit ragged, and further shaky elements include the girl's sporadic narration, an odd decision to close with a documentary-style interview and some awkward title cards that rarely add useful information. The lighting often seems too warm and pleasing for the story's gritty tone, but an initial childbirth scene and an overgenerous amount of toddler nudity add some controversy.

"Poor Cow" usually gets lumped with its era's "kitchen-sink" movement, but there are much better examples of the genre to seek out.

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer

Very intriguing Loach film with young Terence Stamp. Probably its use of pop music was pretty innovative in its day. Austere portrait of working class girl, who doesn't have much of a future.

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