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  Alf Garnett Saga, The High DudgeonBuy this film here.
Year: 1972
Director: Bob Kellett
Stars: Warren Mitchell, Dandy Nichols, Adrienne Posta, Paul Angelis, John Le Mesurier, Patsy Byrne, Roy Kinnear, John Bird, Roy Hudd, Joan Sims, Arthur Askey, George Best, Max Bygraves, Julie Ege, Kenny Lynch, Eric Sykes, Tom Chadbon, Derek Griffiths
Genre: Comedy
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Alf Garnett (Warren Mitchell) and his family - wife Else (Dandy Nichols), daughter Rita (Adrienne Posta) and son-in-law Mike (Paul Angelis) - have been moved out of their terrace house to make way for redevelopment, and now move in to the top floor of a block of flats instead. But Alf doesn't like this enforced displacement one bit, and complains loudly about it, mind you, he complains loudly about everything, his favourite thing in the world is grumbling, grouching and holding grudges, most of them irrational and stemming from his oft-expressed bigotry. His family don't take him seriously, and you would be hard pressed to find anyone who did, just a sad little man who does nothing but spout off his prejudices to all in earshot...

Now, the point with writer Johnny Speight's groundbreaking character Alf Garnett was that he was a buffoon, adrift in a land that was changing and leaving him behind as new generations appeared and put him in his place, most notably his daughter and her husband. But what if those two were ineffectual, not standing up to him and his aggressive racism? Would that be a mistake? You're darn right it would be, which left this, the second film based on Speight's Till Death Us Do Part, something of a mystery since he drastically altered those characters as examples of feckless youth rather than politically engaged enough to confront Garnett and shout him down, literally in many cases (it was a loud television comedy).

Therefore Alf was there, flinging out his insults hither and yon, but it was merely circumstance in a barely there plot that saw him the butt of the jokes rather than someone standing up to him. He still did not get any respect, yet you had to wade through quite a bit of diatribes of the sort your average set the world to rights pub bore would have espoused, all from the mouth of Alf. Fair enough, Mitchell was adept enough to bring this to something like a believably ridiculous man, but the fact remained he was not based on fantasy, and there were plenty of bigots up and down the country who would be thinking he was suffering a raw deal when they could very well sympathise with his simplistic worldview.

Another sign that Speight was misunderstanding his own creations was the addition of the celebrity cast members, as Garnett encounters a bunch of stars, mostly at a football match. The loose narrative had seen to it that Rita was going out with Kenny Lynch, bizarrely, a multi-talented songwriter, singer, producer, actor... jack of all entertainment trades, basically, who was somewhat ill-used in the media of the day after his first flush of success. As a black Briton, here he was representing his entire race as a slap in the face to Alf who can't believe someone of his colour could be far more successful (and rich) than he was - Rita gives her dad a lift in Lynch's Rolls Royce, for instance - yet he never confronted the anti-hero straight on, the most we got was his celeb mates like George Best, Bobby Moore, Eric Sykes and so on whispering "piss off" in Alf's ear when he accosts them.

Away from that, more odd choices abounded; a sitcom movie often required a coarsening of the material that the small screen displayed, but what would you do when the television original was already pretty coarse? Here, Alf lived next door to his boss, played by John Le Mesurier, in a highly unlikely strange bedfellows arrangement (he had his own subplot about fastidiously running his household and leaving nothing for wife Patsy Byrne to do, not even providing a baby for her) that culminated in them getting roaring drunk together for a whole day. Meanwhile, Mike was unrecognisable from Anthony Booth's version, a womanising benefits scrounger who turns racist when he sees Rita is hanging around with Lynch: for a while it looks as if Speight was aggrieved about Love Thy Neighbour on ITV stealing his audience. But the most unthinkable was saved for (almost) last: Alf accidentally takes Mike's LSD sugar cube in his tea, and in an embarrassingly clueless display affects a trip that left him hallucinating a whole pub full of West Indian limbo dancers, then turns black himself. The whole thing was not so much offensive as confounding. Music by Georgie Fame.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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