This Peter Sellers Jewish lawyer dropout comedy counted as satirical once upon a time but just counts as impishly cute now. Sellers falls for a hippychick, drops the briefcase and becomes so hip it hurts, with the inevitable, over-celebrated “parents get high by accident” scene. A country mile from being a classic, but still, a better bet than Mondo Teeth. Watch for Sidney ‘Cagney and Lacey’ Clute and a decidedly un-groovy Harper’s Bizarre soundtrack.
I is for…
Long running smash hit ITV series The Army Game (1957) was so ubiquitous its film version only had to be called after the catchphrase of one of its lead characters, namely Popeye Popplewell played by the great Bernard Bresslaw, for the audience to know what is was about. Scripted by eventual Up Pompeii and Carry On… writer Sid Colin, the premise was the interaction of useless National Service recruits with their dreadful superiors and each other. Since National Service was still mandatory, it’s easy to see where the appeal of the show lay. But even without the shared experience of holding back the Russian hordes by peeling potatoes in Aldershot, this is still well worth the effort of circling in marker on the very rare occasions it crops up in afternoon telly scheduling. The cast on their own can’t fail to please, with Alfie Bass as Excused Boots Bisley (who went on with eventual Sergeant-Major Snudge played by the great Bill Fraser to star in his own telly spin-off, Bootsie And Snudge), David Lodge as Sergeant Potty Chambers, Norman Rossington as Cupcake Cook and assorted other players including Michael Bentine, Michael Ripper and Charles Hawtrey. Like Life With The Lyons, it’s a Hammer production. It’s often thought that venerable name in British film production, most commonly associated with horror, only got into the way of making sitcom spin-offs when the velvet-lined arse fell out of the bottom of the coffin of the Dracula business. But as demonstrated here, this is not the case.
TV CREAM SAYS: ALTHOUGH LIFE WITH THE LYONS IS A BIT FRIGHTENING
Fact is stranger than fiction in this story of how General Montgoonery is shielded by having a double sent in the opposite direction thereby confusing the enemy. Clifton James is that man and Monty – thereby saving the producers a wage packet for another actor and uncovering the real reason they made this particular story – and John Mills, Michael Hordern and Leslie Phillips are amongst the rest of the cast appearing with nice fresh uniforms and freshly starched upper lips.
TV CREAM SAYS: NO SIGN OF DAVID NIVEN THOUGH - WHO WAS IN THE REAL THING
We know what you’re thinking. How does Christopher Lee’s enjoyably atmospheric Amicus reworking of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde link with Dr Who and Children in Need? Well, not only does it use the same doesn’t-quite-work tracking camera 3D photography as the infamous “Who does Albert Square” Children In Need special Dimensions in Time, it also features, alongside Peter Cushing, Richard “William Hartnell’s stand-in for The Five Doctors Children In Need special” Hurndall. Fascinating, eh? We’ve got tons of this sort of stuff.
TV CREAM SAYS: LINES ARE OPEN FOR YOUR DONATIONS NOW
Sylvia Sims used to say that she got paid £3,000 for starring in this film at the time but got £75,000 when it was made into a Carlsberg advert and more than the original fee whenever it was shown. So there you go. Gasping for a pint: John Mills, Anthony ‘condemned veal’ Quayle, David ‘Career?’ Lodge and Allan ‘Twitching’ Cuthbertson.
TV CREAM SAYS: THIS COULD BEEEE YOUR LUCKY DAAAAY!
United in our mind – for no adequately clear reason – in a trio with The Eagle Has Landed and Where Eagles dare, although it may just be that they fall into the twin categories of Shown An Awful Lot and Films Everyone’s Dad Likes. Rock ‘and wife?’ Hudson, Patrick ‘Columbo’ Mcgoohan, Jim ‘Slammer’ Brown and Ernest ‘Bingo was his name-o’ Borgnine all race to the pole to get that darn capsule.
TV CREAM SAYS: THAT EPISODE OF THE PRISONER WHERE MCGOOHAN TURNS INTO NIGEL STOCK WAS COMMISSIONED SPECIALLY SO HE COULD BOG OFF AND FILM THIS
Peter Fonda and Keith Carradine hang out in Idaho’s imposingly barren National Park. They think it’s rather super. They gather a bunch of kids together to immortalise the place on film. They cook up a vague story about a team of young scientists travelling into an eco-buggered future via a threadbare time machine that bizarrely requires young women to remove their trousers before use. Once there, the kids talk their way through a load of slackerish angst before doing each other in with rocks. One week after the film is released, the distributor goes bankrupt. These events may or may not be connected.
TV CREAM SAYS: FONDA: A PRANNY? SURELY NOT!
From the director of Francis the Talking Mule and starring the bloke who was shite beyond Micklewhite in the first two Quatermass films! Glowing recommendations came there none. But hoooooooold fast, as if you lower your expectations to knee height, his turns out to be a right good courtroom melodrama, in a ‘have it on in the kitchen while you’re making a leek and potato pie’ way. Yes, Robert Donleavy is shit as ever, with his rubbish tache barely moving throughout. Yes, the plot centres around such hoary old b-movie saws as a character with amnesia, and someone jumping out of a car at the last moment before it crashes. Yes, the final ‘amazing’ piece of evidence was improbably still in someone’s coat pocket weeks after the fact. Yes, there was an Oirish poilice officer and Chinese girl who referred to herself in the third person and spoke in a generally stilted manner peppered with ‘honourable’s while the musical score chink-chonked away in the background. But still… well, it had us gripped, what can we say? There’s nothing quite like simple drama done dirt cheap. And that closing narration! ‘Yes, *Impact*. The irresistible force that occurs when two lives collide.’
TV CREAM SAYS: HOORAY, ONCE AGAIN, FOR DODGY BUDGET PRODUCER HARRY M 'CHAMPAGNE FOR CAESAR' POPKIN!
Now ensconced in America, Marty Feldman turned at least one of his satirical eyes onto that country’s burgeoning evangelical movement. Feldman plays a naïve Trappist monk threatened with eviction from his monastery by big time TV evangelist Armageddon T Thunderbird (Andy ‘Taxi’ Kaufman), and sets off into the seedier parts of LA to raise the rent money. A mess of random potshots that makes Every Home… seem sober, the film flails randomly at obvious targets (Peter Boyle plays a religious conman with a mobile cathedral) leavened with dollops of cornball sentiment (Feldman finds friendship with a stereotypical ‘hooker with a heart of gold’).
TV CREAM SAYS: FELDMAN WAS FUNNY, BUT NO DIRECTOR HE
Whether or not the Reverend Sun Myung Moon was told by Jesus to fund an epic retelling of this pivotal moment in the Korean War is a moot point. Whoever told Laurence Olivier to accept the lead role as General MacArthur, wearing truly bizarre prosthetic make-up and getting paid in briefcases full of cash flown to the film set by helicopter, must have been working for the other side. The film looks fine, but with acres of long, expository speeches by main characters telling other main characters what they must surely already know, it’s a crashing two-and-a-half-hour bore. Meteorological destruction of outdoor sets and language barriers amongst the crew ensured the price inflated well beyond what was visible on-screen. The Moonies saw a return of about – yes – one tenth of their $46 million outlay, scuppering the Rev’s plans for a billion-dollar series of Biblical epics. So it wasn’t all bad news.
TV CREAM SAYS: AND TO THINK HE HAD SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT DOING THE WORLD AT WAR
Apart from furnishing Disneytime with clips that allowed you to go out and get another glass of ginger, there’s nothing much of note here. Some stray dogs and things wandering across country does not a compelling feature make, we would contend.
TV CREAM SAYS: "ANOTHER TYPE OF DOG IS A DALMATION..." NOW YOU'RE TALKING, BONNIE!
“I am Adolf Hitler, you *will* obey me! Hmph!” A lengthy showcase for Michael ‘Bronson’ Sheard’s fourth on-screen outing as the great dictator (in the grounds of crumblin’ toff’s academy Stowe, Home Counties location fans). He’s played Himmler three times, too, plus sundry lower-ranking Nazis for the past forty-odd years. There’s some other stuff involving snakes and hats in here too, and someone appears to have recorded a rather poor edition of The Adventure Game over the last half hour, but don’t let that put you off.
TV CREAM SAYS: AND THAT 'INVISIBLE WALKWAY' GAG COULDN'T POSSIBLY WORK IN REAL LIFE. DO THEY THINK WE'RE THICK? OH.
Of course, our perverse in-house theory that the middle films in trilogies like these are all really great comes hopelessly unstuck with this annoying effort. An admittedly rather good mine roller coaster sequence (which they almost cut out altogether! Madness!) fails to offset the naff in-jokes (Club Obi-Wan, ho ho!) and Short Bleeding Round.
TV CREAM SAYS: FORTUNATELY THERE ARE NOW FOUR OF THE BUGGERS - AND COUNTING - SO WE'RE OFF THE HOOK
Chalk up another one for Sim (surely the star with most appearances in the list) as he plays the eponymous policeman in this film version of J B Preistley’s celebrated play. In black an white this works splendidly well (we can’t really imagine it making the same impact in colour) and Guy Hamilton creates a starkly claustrophobic atmosphere even before Inspector Poole arrives. But when he does, the real drama starts as each member of the rich Birling family is shown to have contributed in some way to the recent death of a servant of the family at her own hand. And then of course the mysterious Inspector leaves, and who was he? The devil? God? Eh? Eh? Sim proves conclusively once again that while he was perfect in comedy he could be devastating in drama and that his deserves to be well on top of the order of merit of British actors on film and with a great big gap under his name before whoever clambers to be second to the great man.
TV CREAM SAYS: PROPERLY, ACTUALLY, REALLY, GENUINELY 'MASTERLY'
Of the various lacklustre Pink Panther sequels – save for the good one, A Shot in the Dark – this is undoubtedly the one to watch if you’re going to bother with them at all, being the curious Edwards-less, Sellers-less third instalment with Alan ’22′ Arkin bravely stepping into the hat and coat, and not doing all that bad a job of it, really. The supporting cast’s probably better than any of the ‘proper’ Panthers, too, at least for our purposes – Anthony ‘Master’ Ainley, Geoffrey ‘Catweazle’ Bayldon, Patrick ‘Wives’ Cargill, Barry ‘Valk’ Foster, Beryl ‘Mr Milford-Haven’ Reid, Frank Finlay and Michael Ripper.
TV CREAM SAYS: IT'S "ALL WRONG", YES, BUT SO WERE MOST OF THE OTHERS
Eric and Ernie’s (here as “Ernie Sage”, ho-ho) first cinematic venture, made before they sealed their legend status at the Beeb, has a few good bits (the corpse mess-up, Swan Lake, the judo) but, as usual, too much stilted explanatory dialogue. The cast list’s a good’un, tho’ – William ‘Schhh’ Franklyn, Richard ‘Slarti’ Vernon, Terence ‘Bergerac’ Alexander, Johnny ‘Mike Baldwin and Me’ Briggs, Peter “a dooooooooooooomesday shrooooooooooooooud” Bull, Warren Mitchell and, in the lift, Marianne Stone.
TV CREAM SAYS: THE BEST COMBINED FALSE-BEARD-AND-CIGAR EVER COMMITTED TO CELLULOID
Famously, the original of this was an allegory for communism (well, apparently), reds under the bed and all that, but since that notion was abandoned this remake becomes just a straight horror film and not very scary at that. It’s a bit creepy, but not disturbing in any way, which is what scares us most. Another film analysed with surgical skill! Kevin McCarthy – from the first version - is here briefly for a neat little crossover moment and it’s not that bad really with Donald Sutherland doing quite well. But if its shudders with Sutherland you’re looking for it’s not nearly as scary as Don’t Look Now, we’re saying.