OK, where do I even begin with this ?
Marty Feldman, he of the wild hair and even wilder looking eyes, stars as Teddy Brown, an advertising executive who is given the task to “think dirty” and spice up a TV commercial for McLaughlin’s Frozen Porridge. It’s the early 1970s, and sex is everywhere. Sex sells…..and now it’s going to be used to shift breakfast cereal.
Teddy’s wife, Liz (Judy Cornwell) is involved with the “England Clean, England Strong” organisation, who are an amusing parody of the Mary Whitehouse/ National Viewers And Listeners Association brigade who were constantly trying to clean up British TV and film throughout the 1960s, ’70s and well into the 1980s. One of the members of this group is the local vicar, Geoffrey Mellish (Dinsdale Landen) who seems to have his eye on Liz – and she isn’t exactly hiding her fondness for him, either. The group gather in Teddy and Liz’s house to watch all the smut that TV churns out, and then they report the offensive material to Wallace Trafitt MP (Patrick Cargill) who promises to help them in their quest to clean up broadcasting. But of course, he’s a raging pervert who sleeps with a different woman every night and has a closet full of Nazi memorabilia……but, I’m getting ahead of myself a bit here.
Teddy’s young son, Gary (Richard Brown) has caused the au pair to quit her job after she discovered he’d stolen her underwear. In fact, that’s Gary’s hobby…collecting women’s knickers. He’d seen someone doing just that very thing in a play on TV. Anyway, when the new au pair, Inga Giltenburg (Julie Ege) arrives at the house to take up the position, Teddy sees his opportunity to cast her as Goldilocks in his sex-filled idea for the aforementioned porridge commercial.
I could go on with the twists and turns of the plot. I could mention Penelope Keith as a mud wrestling German nanny who wears an iron cross around her neck. I could mention the often charming little scenes which punctuate the story that pay homage to art house cinema, sepia tinted silent movies and titillating slapstick, or the inventive usage of animation in several scenes, or the catchy as hell theme tune, or the fact that Alan Bennett shows up in an uncredited role as a defence solicitor at the very end of the film…..but, maybe you should just grab an opportunity to watch this film for yourself, as it’s actually pretty hard to explain everything about it.
It moves at a cracking pace, and it’s bursting with ideas. Much of the on-screen action reminded me of films like The Magic Christian with its almost surreal imagery and all over the place narrative, but that’s maybe giving it a bit too much credit to make that comparison. Other parts reminded me of Richard Lester’s work on The Beatles’ Help! – but considerably smuttier. It’s not at all politically correct, and sensitive viewers might wince at some of the jokes and stereotyping on full display here (Swedish au pair = total sex bomb. German au pair = hard faced, serious and dictator-like) but ah, what the hell, it was the early 1970s.
The film is at least 10 minutes too long, and there is a protracted comic fight scene (well, sort of fight scene) near the end which had me losing interest by that point – but underneath all the craziness, the film manages to successfully take aim and fire at our so-called guardians of morality, as well as the cut throat world of TV advertising and what we, the consumers, respond to and, in fact, demand in order to be jostled into parting with our hard-earned cash.
Did I enjoy this film ? To be honest, I’m not exactly sure. I certainly wasn’t bored, until maybe 10 minutes before the end where I felt the film had nowhere else to go at that point and should’ve been wrapped up. Well worth a viewing, though, if you like wacky comedies from the early 1970s…..and pretty much essential if you’re a Marty Feldman fan.
Extras are the original theatrical trailer, some textless material, an image gallery and promotional/pressbook PDFs