Director: Kevin Billington
I remember wanting to see this when it came out only for it never to show up at my local Odeon on its 1970 release (those were the days!) Nor can I ever recall seeing it show up on any of the then three TV channels in the years in the next decade or so when I had a TV (Kids today! Don’t know they’re born, etc!)
Finally did get to see it on one of those old movie channels about six years back and finally got around to buying my own copy and rewatching again a couple of weeks ago.
While a critical and commercial bomb on its release, the film remains little more than a historical curio best known for apparently destroying Peter Cook’s career as a major movie star. While Cook never found another leading role to match his huge talent thereafter, it’s hard to see him going to Hollywood and doing any better than – say – Marty Feldman, whose career crashed and burned a few years later.
One reason for the film’s failure is undoubtedly the fact that it’s more a series of inter-linked sketches than a real coherent narrative. Given the cast contains the cream of British comedy at that time– Cook, Cleese and Chapman to name but three – what else was it ever likely to be. That said, some of the sketches are very, very funny – the always wonderful Arthur Lowe as the hapless ad agency chief whose firm RImmer takes over on his way to the top is always good value. (What’s that For Sale sign doing on the car?” says his wife.”Oh that! That’s an ad for Fors Ale, some new beer that Rimmer has us pushing!” replies Lowe. Others are rather more clunky – the laboured sub-plot involving the dependably sleazy Denholm Elliot’s chasing of RImmer’s trophy missus.
Kitty Muggeridge once dismissed David Frost (who produces here) as being “a man who rose without trace” – rather like Rimmer himself. Despite its occasional clunkiness, what makes the film worth watching today, is how similar Rimmer is to the likes of Tony Blair, Dominic Cummings and PM in the wings, “Dishy” Rishi Sunak. While the film has dated rather badly as only British comedies from the early 1970s can, there are also some terrific jokes – as you’d expect from Cook et. This exchange when TV interviewer, Steven Hench, interviews a senior minister about the death of a rival is one of the best. Given that senior pols come out with the most appalling gubbins when an enemy carks it to this day, it’s also one of the most timeless:
Steven Hench: Mr Blocket, you had been on rather acrimonious terms with the late Prime Minister
Blocket: We had our differences
Steven Hench: On one occasion, indeed on several occasions, you described him as a two-faced weasel-eyed git.
Blocket: In the rough and tumble of parliamentary debate things are said that can often be misinterpreted but there was a lot of warmth there.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
The Thick of It, Not Only But Also, The Frost Report, Yes Minister