cast: Irene Handl, Wilfred Pickles, Barbara Mitchell, Jack Smethurst, and Arthur English
director: Ronnie Baxter
117 minutes (PG) 1972
Fremantle DVD Region 0 retail
reviewed by Andrew Hook
This movie was a spinoff from an apparently successful 1970s’ British television comedy show of the same name.
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In the show the recently widowed Ada (Irene Handl) fell in love with the gravedigger (Pickles) who buried her husband, a relationship that progressed to their marriage at the end of the series. In the movie, they are approaching their first wedding anniversary and are planning a quiet celebration – although Ada’s daughter (Barbara Mitchell) and son-in-law (Jack Smethurst) have planned a much bigger surprise party.
To say that this movie has dated is a gross understatement of massive proportions. The jokes, the comic timing, and the set pieces have all fallen foul to the changing of the times. Hovering between the genteel comedy of Pickles and Handl and the more ‘modern’ marriage and banter of Mitchell and Smethurst, the movie doesn’t particularly amount to anything at all, and aside from a couple of moments when I smiled, is devoid of humour to most of today’s audience. Perhaps this is symptomatic of British comedy spin-offs that often had the effect of either being a 30-minute show spread thin or a hotchpotch of episodic moments. Being neither one thing nor the other just doesn’t work.
Handl is of course irrepressible as Ada, and she carries the film (as far as it goes) with her usual verve and directness of style. Pickles has his moments. but he isn’t as versatile as Handl and it shows. Mitchell and Smethurst are one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs, and the scene where Smethurst is propositioned by an overtly sexual blonde-bimbo hairdresser is relentlessly excruciating! Some relief is provided by the ever reliable Arthur English, but not much.
So the movie trundles along, and it really isn’t worth me spoiling your enjoyment by analysing it scene by scene. Needless to say that you’ll either enjoy the right proper knees up at the end or you won’t…
Perhaps the most fun to be had is spotting future famous faces in minor roles, even though they became minor famous faces: Gareth Hunt has a stilted walk-on part as a policeman, Dougie Brown is Dougie the hairdresser, and I’m sure I spotted David Jason at the hospital although I won’t be watching it again to make sure of that.
The only extra is the original trailer that is a period piece in itself. Overall this movie is an historical document that is mildly interesting as to how we used to live and to the comedy of the times – particularly the changing comedy of the times in the early 1970s – but this isn’t classic British comedy by any means, and it’s somewhat heartening to know that everything wasn’t better in the old days after all. Ultimately this movie is harmless. Damned by quiet praise, as they say.