ALBUM, THE SILENT COMEDY SHORT FILM’S WHITE – You may have noticed we’ve taken a different approach with this one, and there’s a sort of reason for that. What we’re dealing with here is, like, cosmic, right? This visionary film has been dismissed as a plotless fashion shoot, a load of moving colour supplement features interspersed with silent comedy antics of the calibre Eric Sykes and even Graham Stark would reject. (And as we know, it’s the silent comedy antics Eric Sykes rejects, which make Eric Sykes’s silent comedy antics the best.) This is because those critics, y’know, don’t have the vision to appreciate this film’s, y’know, vision. Right? So, in a break with established critical tradition, and possibly also in a spiteful ‘well if they can’t be bothered making a proper film we can’t be bothered writing a proper review’ mood, here’s our disjointed, half-baked collection of gnomic utterances about a likewise-made film that can barely said to be there at all. See Amoebas, human beings the size of; Synopsis, go on, at least make a stab at a;
AMOEBAS, HUMAN BEINGS THE SIZE OF – The plot, such as it is, revolves around a ‘science-vs.-swingers’ setup. Jack MacGowran is an absent-minded man of medicine who spends all day looking down microscopes, but hey! Maybe there’s more to the world than Stuffy Old Science can imagine. He could do with another sort of microscope to examine another sort of inner space, huh gang? See Amsterdam, what businessmen get up to in; Bong, pratting about with an outsize; Box, I’d better conceal this sticky bun by placing it precariously on the edge of this; Brunettes, cheating on Jane Birkin with several; Fez, someone wearing a; Mankind, I’m carrying out experiments of the greatest of importance to; Pastry, Mr.
AMSTERDAM, WHAT BUSINESSMEN GET UP TO IN – See Bananas, have you got any spare; Bong, pratting about with an outsize; Car, my wallet’s in the; Foil, lounging about in the nip on some tin.
‘AND INTRODUCING THE FOOL!’ – A Dutch interior design collective, if you please, credited with decorating Birkin’s swinging split-level pad with swirly murals aplenty. The results are exactly as you might imagine, which is not necessarily a good thing. See Bong, pratting about with an outsize.
BANANAS, HAVE YOU GOT ANY SPARE – A very unconvincing thing to want to come round to MacGowran’s place to want to casually borrow. Just what is your game, Quarrier? See Quarrier, Ian.
BIRKIN, HALLUCINATING A STRANGE HYBRID OF A FISH AND JANE – Too much sitting round at home watching Bird’s Eye Menu Masters ads. (‘For the busy lifestyle you lead today.’) See Birkin, Jane.
BIRKIN, JANE - Less than a year away here from getting banned from the East Finchley Boy Scout’s club! See Pallenberg, Anita.
BLOOD, HER OFF OF THE STONES OF – Jack MacGowran’s dead mother, aka Beatrice Lehmann. Her father was humorist Rudolph Chambers Lehmann, her great-uncle was the painter Henri Lehmann, her brother was essayist and poet John Lehmann, and her sister was novelist Rosamond Lehmann. See ‘Rosewood, mahogany, teak?’
BONG, PRATTING ABOUT WITH AN OUTSIZE – Much of this, inevitably, by La Birk, El Quarry, and assorted hired goons. I think there might be The Fool in there too. Hum. See ‘And introducing The Fool!’
BONGO, MAGIC CONSULTANT ALI - One of many countercultural icons conspicuous by their absence. See Chuckle Dandies, The.
BOX, I’D BETTER CONCEAL THIS STICKY BUN BY PLACING IT PRECARIOUSLY ON THE EDGE OF THIS – The painting on the professor’s side of the “wonderwall” is a colorization of “The Passing of Arthur” [black and white illustration] by Florence Harrison from Tennyson’s “Guinevere and Other Poems”. London: Blackie & Son, . The original illustration has the caption “Morte d’Arthur”; it is not to be confused with the color illustration with the same title, done by the same artist for the same book. See Team, The Wonderwall Restoration.
BRAS, THE LADIES’ – Would’ve made a more appropriate soundtrack.
BREAK, SHE’S GETTING SO UPTIGHT I DON’T KNOW WHICH WAY TO – This is no way to talk, hipster or no hipster. ‘You owe it to yourself, Ian!’
BRUNETTES, CHEATING ON JANE BIRKIN WITH SEVERAL – see Quarrier, Ian.
BUTTERFLIES, BADLY ANIMATED – Flying about to comedy boingy sitar stuff. A possibly less than gobsmacking special effect. See Glass, wall magically turning into.
CANNES – This premiered on The Croisette in 1968, no less. History, or at least the bit we’ve bothered to look at, does not recall how many backers beat a slavering path to Compton’s door after the first exhibition screening. See Car, my wallet’s in the; Him!, I seen him I seen.
CAR, MY WALLET’S IN THE – And now back to the wall.
CARDS, MACGOWRAN’S LITTLE SET OF ‘THINGS TO DO’ INDEX - He’s so absent minded, you see, he needs to put these cards in his pocket to remind him to put his jacket on. What is this, A Hitch in Time? See Dunn, Clive.
CHUCKLE DANDIES, THE - Two far-out fellers in pirate clobber who run up in a bottle green Bond Bug with a cardboard standee in the back, which they lug up to Birkin’s flat. One will grow up to become Ian Quarrier. See Quarrier, Ian.
CLEARLY, WELL YES OF COURSE - But then Taxi Driver didn’t end with a nudie version of the National Film Board of Canada’s Cosmic Zoom film. See Demarcation.
CLOTHES SHOW ROADSHOW, THE – Jane Birkin is permanently knackered, like Selina Scott.
COLLEGES, PROGRAMMES FOR SCHOOLS AND - Shameful old MacGowran throws a psychotic sickie at work (‘I can’t see her anymore!’ he screams into the microscope) so Perkins takes him home. Sadly no bugger’s in next door. Ha! Busted! See Perkins.
COLOUR, YOU LOOK QUITE OFF – Ideal dialogue cue at which to turn the picture black and white.
CONVERSATION, THE - MacGowran bugs Birkin’s pad, but hears only bland, aimless nonsense conversations made up of ad slogans. See Florette, screenplay by the author of Jean De.
DEMARCATION – There seems to have been some confusion in apportioning the various departments for this film. It’s like the people behind 2001 and The Plank had pooled their resources, only the job of writing funny gags went to the crew off 2001, and the job of providing a strong metaphysical story went to…the crew off of 2001.
DIALS, MASSIVE BAKELITE – Well, you’ve got to find visual sustenance somewhere. These are massive indeed, and are stuck to the front of a great big engine of some sort supposedly outside the lab, though the tiled walls make it look like a gents lav at King’s Cross. See Pissing gag.
DOGSY’S DINNER – If Noel Gallagher has actually ever managed to sit all the way through this film, even in ten-minute YouTube chunks, we’ll eat our silver cloche hats.
DRIVER, YOU KNOW MAN THERE AIN’T NO FILM BETTER THAN TAXI - Loner saves girl from countercultural hell and denouement is revealed in pan across ‘Scientist Saves Fashion Model’ newspaper headlines a good decade before Marty did it. Coincidence? See Clearly, well yes of course.
DRONE-IN, THE 1968 NON-DENOMINATIONAL WORLD MUSIC – Is about to be opened by Eagle-Eye Cherry. See Four, The Remo.
DUNN, CLIVE – Another of MacGowran’s models for the prof. See MacGowran, Jack; Pastry, Mr.; Frankenstein, Gene Wilder in Young; Who, Peter Cushing’s ill-advised cinematic portrayal of Doctor.
FAR, NEAR AND – We swear that schools’ programme’s queasily vertiginous scraping theme is in use during the film’s climactic Metropolis rip-off. See Colleges, Programmes for Schools and; Rip-off, Metropolis.
FAVOURS, FEATHERS AND – The model for this film’s screenplay. See Florette, screenplay by the author of Jean De.
FEZ, SOMEONE WEARING A – Too little, too late to win our forgiveness. See Bongo, Magic Consultant Ali.
FIDO – MacGowran’s dog. This, like his mum, is of course also dead. But this one’s stuffed and all. See Wheelchair, Clive Dunn’s dead mother’s.
FLORETTE, SCREENPLAY BY THE AUTHOR OF JEAN DE - Hey, who knew? See Cannes.
FOIL, LOUNGING ABOUT IN THE NIP ON SOME TIN – A fine way to spend a Saturday afternoon. See Hotpants.
FOUR, THE REMO - Or are they The New Dakotas? See Harrison, George MBE.
FRANKENSTEIN, GENE WILDER IN YOUNG – Another of MacGowran’s models for the prof. See Dunn, Clive; MacGowran, Jack; Pastry, Mr.; Who, Peter Cushing’s ill-advised cinematic portrayal of Doctor.
GLASS, WALL MAGICALLY TURNS INTO – The moment it becomes clear we’re into ‘Final Episode of The Prisoner‘ territory. See Horse, rocking.
‘HALLUCINATORY DESIGN, HIP FASHIONS AND SEXY ENERGY!’ - Well, you can make trailers say anything you want. See Cannes; Tenser, Tony.
HARRISON, GEORGE MBE – Provides the soundtrack. All his own work, natch. See Drone-In, The 1968 Non-Denominational World Music. Also in the mix are Ringo, Clapton and Peter Tork on Paul McCartney’s banjo. See Street, Give My Regards to Broad.
HIM!, I SEEN HIM I SEEN - This film was, famously, ‘never shown’. Only of course, it was, in Cannes and at the Cinecenta, whatever that was. But ‘never’ sounds better. If you’re Stephen Pile, anyway. See Cannes.
HOLE - Projects silhouettes of Birkin, James Bond title sequence style, onto MacGowran’s face. See Interstitials, Psychedelic Teabreak.
HORSE, ROCKING - What Birkin sits on for the worst telephone acting ever seen as she ‘argues’ with her ‘agent’.
HOTPANTS - As modelled by La Birk and ‘friend’ to whimsical organ music. See Clothes Show Roadshow, The.
ICE, A FRIDGE FULL OF – Ideal subject for an extended slapstick gag. See Bananas, have you got any spare.
INSECTS – Loads of them, in tanks and pinned up in cases. Suitably fusty and creepy atmosphere easily obtained with a few shillings and a ticket to Portobello Road. (NB a similar prop buying jamboree held today would result in the set being dressed with five disposable cigarette lighters, two of which are working.) See Butterflies, badly animated.
INSTRUMENT, CUNNINGLY REVERSED TAPE LOOPS OF AN UNIDENTIFIABLE STRINGED - Ideal accompaniment to a series of Rentaghost-style apparitions.
INTERSTITIALS, PSYCHEDELIC TEABREAK - Well, it beats ‘best drink of the day’.
JACK, A LATE-IN-THE-DAY BUT STILL AGREEABLY STRONG SURGE IN GENUINE DAFFY LIKEABILITY FROM - But you have to ask – Where? Was? The Defence?
KILLERS, THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE - Jack MacGowran’s Oscar Collins is a, er, close cousin to Jack MacGowran’s decrepit Professor Abronsius. See Pyke, Magnus.
LIGHT, LOVELY OLD ZEFFIRELLI STYLE DUSTY BEAMS OF - If in doubt, bung out the old favourites. See Pissing gag.
LOVE, REFLECTIONS ON – An earlier short film collaboration between Massot and Harrison, which is slapped on the DVD, though we haven’t bothered with it for…one reason and another. See Harrison, George MBE; Massot, Joe; Shaker, contains a new musical soundtrack by Kula.
MACGOWRAN, JACK – Far from at his best here, but still the only interesting thing on the screen. See Dunn, Clive; Frankenstein, Gene Wilder in Young; Jack, a late-in-the-day but still agreeably strong surge in genuine daffy likeability from; Over, falling; Pastry, Mr; Who, Peter Cushing’s ill-advised cinematic portrayal of Doctor.
MANKIND, I’M CARRYING OUT EXPERIMENTS OF THE GREATEST OF IMPORTANCE TO – Perkins is not convinced. See Perkins.
MASK, A GAS – What La Birk sports during one photo shoot. Heavy symbolism no doubt attached. See Pissing gag.
MASSOT, JOE - This film’s elusive director. He made whimsical, Beatle-featuring ‘ain’t love grand, like’ short Reflections on Love, during which he ‘got in’ enough with the Fabs to ensure George’s co-operation on The ‘Wall. After that was seen by about twenty people down the Cinecenta he helped George Lazenby write Universal Soldier, which was Big Fry’s big vanity project that was going to be bigger and better than any Bond film ever (and despite some nifty hovercraft and Germaine Greer as a Bond girl, it wasn’t). He was also mixed up in woeful Country Joe-soundtracked and balsa-built ‘electric western’ Zachariah, before getting back behind the camera for Zep concert flick The Song Remains the Same, and was last properly active over twenty years ago helming Space Riders, a duller-than-it-sounds montage of motocross action to a Queen soundtrack. See Pilgrim, The Passionate.
MOVIE, DIRTY – ‘Bloody hell! Bloody hell! Bloody hell!’ See Ronnies, those shabby and rather unnerving first series episodes of The Two.
NAKED YOGA, AND NOW ON CHANNEL FOUR ITS JUST COMING UP TO MIDNIGHT AND TIME FOR A SPOT OF - Capture cards at the ready, kids!
OVER, FALLING – Good old falling over. See Pastry, Mr.
PALLENBERG, ANITA - She’s… she’s there, too. See ‘And introducing The Fool!’
PASTRY, MR – Another of MacGowran’s models for the prof. See Dunn, Clive; Frankenstein, Gene Wilder in Young; MacGowran, Jack; Who, Peter Cushing’s ill-advised cinematic portrayal of Doctor.
PERKINS – MacGowran’s number two in the lab, as portrayed by Richard Wattis. He really cares.
PIANO, SPED-UP WILD WEST SALOON BAR – The perfect accompaniment to a slapstick DIY montage. See Slapstick, DIY.
PILGRIM, THE PASSIONATE – Or is it a parody of Blow-Up? Anyway, it’s a dream sequence with MacGowran in magician’s cape duelling with La Birk’s blonde bit on the side in a Superman costume halfway up Box Hill or somesuch, to the tortuous strains of some very Magic Alex experimental accompaniment. Birkin drags a piano about. MacGowran capers along with a giant prop pen to a comedy dinging sound. Amidst all of this Birkin, it scarcely needs to be said, is no Madeline Smith. See Problem, Professor Popper’s.
PILLS, COR BLIMEY – As the hugely symbolic al fresco pretend wedding comes to a climax, MacGowran dons a turban and settles down to a nice big bong, and a few of these. See Bong, pratting about with an outsize; Suicide, Rock ‘N’ Roll; Wedding, hugely symbolic al fresco pretend.
PISSING GAG – It may sound like he is, but it’s just harmless water! See Routine, the old ‘Turn the Hoover off!’ ‘I can’t hear you! I’ll just turn the Hoover off!’.
PROBLEM, PROFESSOR POPPER’S - Then suddenly him and the blonde bloke are arsing around by a flyover with a seven-foot packet of Player’s No. 6. The blond spears him with a giant lipstick. MacGowran wakes up to a hefty invoice from ITC’s Avengers props department.
PUREFOY, MRS - The charlady who interrupts MacGowran’s randy snooping with the Hoover. And a complete and utter waste of Irene Handl.
PYKE, MAGNUS – See Pastry, Mr.
QUARRIER, IAN – Birkin’s Canadian love interest and imaginary ‘foe’ of MacGowran’s quaint fantasies. Was also the gay vampire up against MacGowran’s Professor Abronsius in The Fearless Vampire Killers. Aha! See Killers, The Fearless Vampire; MacGowran, Jack; Pilgrim, The Passionate.
REASON, BRIEF INTERLUDE IN BLACK AND WHITE FOR ABSOLUTELY NO – You’re only making things worse for yourself, you know.
REFRAIN, THE THEME TUNE’S UNMISTAKABLE - ‘Who am I?/That you know my name?/Who am I? Ba da da da!’
RIP-OFF, METROPOLIS – The beam engine in this weird Victorian pumping station that’s somehow a vital part of MacGowran’s cash-strapped amoeba research laboratory, even though it’s apparently located in the gents’ at King’s Cross, goes berserk. See Dials, massive Bakelite ; Far, Near and.
RONNIES, THOSE SHABBY AND RATHER UNNERVING FIRST SERIES EPISODES OF THE TWO - What this film most resembles in tone. Broad and not yet fully funny comedy sketches interrupted by dull, under-choreographed Pan’s People routines.
‘ROSEWOOD, MAHOGANY, TEAK?’ – This film’s props budget appears to be split 50-50 between hats and shelving.
ROUTINE, THE OLD ‘TURN THE HOOVER OFF!’ ‘I CAN’T HEAR YOU! I’LL JUST TURN THE HOOVER OFF!’ - see Routine, the very old ‘still shouting after Hoover’s been turned off’.
ROUTINE, THE VERY OLD ‘STILL SHOUTING AFTER HOOVER’S BEEN TURNED OFF’ - see Movie, Dirty; Purefoy, Mrs; Routine, the old ‘Turn the Hoover off!’ ‘I can’t hear you! I’ll just turn the Hoover off!’.
SHAKER, CONTAINS A NEW MUSICAL SOUNDTRACK BY KULA – For God’s sake, why?
SLAPSTICK, DIY – Once with a drill, once tidying up those insects, once taking the ceiling down so he can climb through the roof. All undercranked, none especially funny. But MacGowran does do all his own stunts. See Over, falling.
SLOMAN, ANTHONY BARNEY – Assistant editor. He once finished second on the BBC quiz programme Film Buff of the Year.
SPLIT, I HAVE TO - ‘She’s got a cover in Vogue. The cycle of Pisces is coming to an end. Thanks for everything, prof. It was beautiful.’
SPOILER, PLOT - She’s pregnant. See Suicide, Rock ‘N’ Roll.
STREET, GIVE MY REGARDS TO BROAD - ‘Hey, Macca! That Good Old Days sketch with Bryan Brown! Nice one!’
SUICIDE, ROCK ‘N’ ROLL - And she wants out. See Spoiler, plot.
SUNGLASSES, THICK PLASTIC OWL-RIMMED – Present and correct, natch.
SYNOPSIS, GO ON, AT LEAST MAKE A STAB AT A - Oh, all right… Stuffy, absent-minded professor Oscar Collins (Jack MacGowran) takes his bacteria-studying work home with him. When a weekend spent on the microscope is interrupted by some wheedling cod-Indian music, he peers through a hole in the wall and sees next door’s flat, a modish photographic studio inhabited by phwoargeous model Penny Lane (Jane Birkin). Thus begins a charming, innocent and not at all distastefully grubby obsession. See Spoiler, plot.
TEAM, THE WONDERWALL RESTORATION – When it came to re-master the film for the 30th anniversary, the optical soundtrack on the original print had deteriorated to the point of uselessness, so a new soundtrack had to be mastered from scratch. While this was going on, director Joe Massot included In the First Place, a track Harrison had at the time thought ‘inappropriate’ for the film. Fascinating stuff, we’re sure you’ll agree.
TENSER, TONY - Yes, this is a Compton Film, and was marketed as such. See ‘Hallucinatory design, hip fashions and sexy energy!’
THESE, ON DAYS LIKE – What the film’s main theme drone, bizarrely enough, most resembles. See Titles, some more of those crazy soundtrack.
TITLES, SOME MORE OF THOSE CRAZY SOUNDTRACK - Microbes, Drilling a Home, Wonderwall to Be Here, Singing Om, Party Secombe, Greasy Legs. See Tremoloes, stone me, are you still with the.
TIZIZER, I’S GOT THE ‘IZE’ ‘COS I’M DRIZINKING - ‘I didn’t understand that.’ ‘Did you understand that?’ ‘I didn’t understand that. Curious noise.’ ‘Curious noise.’
TONGS, THE SUGAR - ‘No, no, Perkins! Not with the sugar tongs! She’s too delicate! Mother, is that you?’
TREMOLOES, STONE ME, ARE YOU STILL WITH THE – ‘Olympus Trip? You want to get yourself a complicated camera, mate!’ See Up, Blow.
UP, BLOW – Birkin was in that, too, of course. What significance this holds goodness knows. See Wedding, a hugely symbolic al fresco pretend.
VIOLINS, CRYING - Ideal accompaniment to a tearful row between Birkin and Quarrier. No, really, couldn’t be less irritating if it tried.
WALLPAPER, THE FINAL, FULL-ON REVEAL OF THE FOOL’S PAINSTAKINGLY DESIGNED, UP-TO-THE-SECOND, ULTRA-TURNED-ON GROOVY PAD SHAMEFULLY CONSISTING OF AN ABANDONED CHAPEL COVERED IN BROWN AND ORANGE FESTIVAL OF BRITAIN ABSTRACT – What a let-down!
WARDROBE, QUICK JACK, SOMEONE’S COMING, GET IN THE – Well, it worked in Monique.
WEDDING, A HUGELY SYMBOLIC AL FRESCO PRETEND – Yes, very Last Week at Minehead Butlin’s. See Pilgrim, The Passionate.
WHEEDLING – What most of Harrison MBE’s soundtrack just sits there doing. See Harrison, George MBE.
WHEELCHAIR, CLIVE DUNN’S DEAD MOTHER’S - A played-for-laffs horror scene involves MacGowran’s dead mater wheeling herself through the door and generally having an echoey go at the old duffer. See Blood, her off of The Stones of.
WHO, PETER CUSHING’S ILL-ADVISED CINEMATIC PORTRAYAL OF DOCTOR - Another soft centre! See Blood, her off of The Stones of.
WONDERCEILING – A doomed attempt to extend the brand in the film’s closing minutes. It’s an odd film, clearly, but its motives seem confused too, particularly in that suicide ending. So stuffy old Tories like MacGowran should ‘keep an eye’ on the Beautiful People just in case they accidentally throw themselves off the twig, is that it? Hardly the revolutionary social manifesto you’d expect from a genuine Summer of Love film. ‘Turn on, tune in…take care!’ See Car, my wallet’s in the.
WORLD, THE BEST RECEPTION MANAGER OF ANY AIRLINE IN THE - See Perkins.Read More