Being remembered only for Withnail & I is a brutal testament. PolPot might be more pleased with his legacy. But unfortunately for the great Elphick, one of the most genuinely original and brilliant telly stars of the last 30 years, that benighted old Penrith-bound toot is about it as far as fame at the pictures goes. That’s a real shame though as Mike was involved in a lot more interesting stuff than that. When Diddy David Lynch wanted a sadistic ham-fisted bastard to give John Hurt a hard time in The Elephant Man it was an actual stroke of genius, not a trait easily attributed to Lynch at the best of times, to put Elphick in there. It’s no simple matter to act hard and cruel and not be all nimminy-pimminy, like some RADA encrusted offstage Nazi. But Elphick could do it quite easily. Comfy lawn-based whimsy Arthur’s Hallowed Ground rubbed shoulders effortlessly with Polanski wank Pirates and the nearest cinematic equivalent to the death of a thousand cuts, Little Dorrit. Krull and Gorky park provide some more interesting range and indeed his part as Jake the poacher in Withnail does at least demonstrate comfortably that he was prepared to appear in shit in order to help out a mate.
FINEST HOUR: As the frighteningly real and sadistic Sergeant to Marxist officer John Cleese in HandMade’s version of Peter Nicol’s terribly-jolly-except-for-the-last-ten-minutes Privates on Parade.