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Films: B is for...

Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones, The

Tony Richardson and John Osborne may have gathered the glory with their ’60s version of Henry Fielding’s monstrous six-volume picaresque epic, but Cliff ‘That Riviera Touch’ Owen and Jeremy ‘Allo Allo’ Lloyd made a suprisingly good fist of things thirteen years on, with Nicky Henson in the lead, Trevor Howard as a fantastic drunken, spank-happy narrator, Arthur Lowe and Terry-Thomas in Tom Baker wigs as Henson’s teachers Thwackum and Square, and a cameoing Joan Collins as pantomime highwaygirl Black Bess. What’s more, it’s a musical, with the requisite gloriously tortuous lyrical contrivance present and correct in the songs. The hapless squire who discovers the infant Tom dumped in his bed opines ‘How can I possibly explain it/That I’ve found a baby in my bed?/If nobody will claim it, on who shall I blame it?/Eloise, Mary-Anne, Hector, Jeremy or Fred?’ The sub-Gilbert and Sullivan fun continues when Lowe and T-T perform Modus Operandi, a duet that initially resembles Flanders and Swann’s ‘I’m a Gnu’ (“To survive (diddle-dee-dee)/To stay alive (diddle-dee-dee)/You must/Have a modus/Operandi”), brought to a close in the only manner possible – Lowe accidentally treads in some cow shit and Terry-Thomas grimaces in disgust. And it all looks wonderful too – no gloopy browns, faded greens, underlit interiors and telly aerials looming into shot as you’d get with Carry On Dick. Veteran lensman Douglas Slocombe ensures exteriors beam with ruddy colour, and interiors exhibit chiaroscuro candlepower to match anything Kubrick got in the over-fussy Barry Lyndon. And all this for a throwaway slap-and-tickle comedy!

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  1. Matt Patton

    July 24, 2010 at 1:16 am

    Not a masterpiece, but a lot more fun than Richardson’s version of the material. If nothing else, people speak in level tones of voice from time to time . . .

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