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  Doctor in Clover Irrational Health Service
Year: 1966
Director: Ralph Thomas
Stars: Leslie Phillips, James Robertson Justice, Shirley Anne Field, John Fraser, Joan Sims, Arthur Haynes, Elizabeth Ercy, Fenella Fielding, Jeremy Lloyd, Noel Purcell, Robert Hutton, Eric Barker, Terry Scott, Norman Vaughan, Alfie Bass, Nicky Henson
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Doctor Gaston Grimsdyke (Leslie Phillips) is facing the end, and miserable because of it. The end of his work as a prison doctor, that is, for he was caught messing around with the governor's daughter and that is a sackable offence. Therefore he does his rounds for the last time, bade farewell by the inmates who ask him to pass messages on to their loved ones (or bookies), then walks out into the world knowing he has to find a new job. As luck would have it, who should be driving by in his Rolls Royce but Sir Lancelot Spratt (James Robertson Justice), who stops at the kerb and orders Grimsdyke into the car. On hearing of his dilemma, Spratt demands he come to work for him as a doctor in his hospital - what could possibly go wrong?

Phillips appeared in three of the Doctor series of medical comedies based on Richard Gordon books, and Doctor in Clover was by far is favourite for he believed it showed him off to his best advantage as far as securing the laughs went, and as a result it was a huge success at the domestic box office. With its mixture of saucy jokes and relationship humour, these were a rival to the Carry On franchise that ran concurrently, though the Doctor efforts merely managed seven entries compared with the production line of output from Peter Rogers' stable. That said, they did share a number of actors, as seen here where Joan Sims had a prominent role as a strict matron of the sort Hattie Jacques would have adopted in the other series.

Dirk Bogarde was of course the most famous performer to emerge from these movies, and he had been coaxed back for the previous effort, but by now he had decided enough was enough and he preferred to work with directors like Joseph Losey rather than muck about in the heartthrob role that had made his name. In truth, he was getting a little long in the tooth for these affairs, though that did not stop Phillips stepping in to carry off his lothario act as he had become a past master at by this stage. Apparently producer Betty E. Box opted to highlight that he was no spring chicken either, and despite his claimed age to be thirty-five (and the rest) a major plot point was how old Grimsdyke was getting.

Really too old to be chasing after young nurses, not that this was going to stop him, he just had to find a way of holding back the years which led to slightly embarrassing (on purpose, mind you) sequences where he tried to prove himself worthy of twenty-year-old nurse Elizabeth Ercy (one of those Brigitte Bardot-alikes who populated sixties cinema). All of which were ridiculous, from doing a handstand on parallel bars which saw him lose his balance when matron appears and asks him what he thinks he is doing, sending him into the pool for a soaking, to visiting Carnaby Street (or equivalent) and trying to settle on a new look which - gasp! - sees him shave off his trademark moustache. As you can imagine, none of this helps in the slightest, leading him to drastic, chemical measures.

But this was no one man show for Phillips, he was supported by an ensemble of top British talent, Justice probably the main asset as his belligerent know-it-all who genuinely does know it all was a fine comedy creation, thus Box was keen to use him time and again. He got to let his hair down in scenes where he was the recipient of the rejuvenating chemical by accident, leaving him feeling decades younger and up to Scottish country dancing with Alexandra Bastedo of all people, as the deployment of a canister of laughing gas provided easy mirth. Also present were then-television superstar, now forgotten, Arthur Haynes as a troublesome patient, and John Fraser in what was essentially the Bogarde role, not making much of it though he did have a couple of nice scenes with "ballerina" Fenella Fielding. At the time, this was regarded as vulgar entertainment, though it comes across as pretty quaint these days even if they do drag out the "Rectum?"/"Well, it didn't do 'em any good" gag. If you were indulgent, you could have a decent time with this. Music by John Scott.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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