George Roper, husband to long suffering Mildred, has only just remembered that it is their wedding anniversary. A hasty booking at The Candlelight Restaurant ends in disaster so he takes her away for a luxury weekend break at The London Hotel. But things never run to plan for the Ropers, and upon arrival George is mistaken for a hitman, with hilarious results for all concerned.
British cinema in the seventies saw a glut of big screen versions of sitcom favourites which were kick-started by the popularity of On the Buses, the most successful British film of 1971. Most of them followed a similar format, taking the familiar characters out of their familiar surroundings, invariably on holiday. Such is the case with George and Mildred, based on the sitcom which was itself a spin off, from Man About the House (which also had its own big screen outing).
It’s obvious to see why this idea was repeated for most films of this type; why bother to adapt a show into a movie if you are not going to expand it beyond the limitations of the telly format? More importantly would audiences come running to see exactly the same things they could watch at home? The Rising Damp movie being a case in point, consisting of little more than refilmed sketches from the television show.
Unfortunately George and Mildred, made at the tail end of the fad, is a wholly unsuccessful cinematic version of the much-loved sitcom. The usual idea of taking the characters out of their small screen environment just doesn’t work at all. One of the reasons being the absence of the Fourmiles, neighbours to the Ropers and responsible for much of the humour of the series. They only appear briefly in the beginning of the film and their absence throughout the rest of the movie is palpable. It would have been far more entertaining to have the neighbours forced together, perhaps made to share shoddy holiday accommodation. What we are left with is a compendium of poorly executed farce that bares no relation to the television show; events coming to a not soon enough conclusion with a far from thrilling car chase involving possible the worst marksmen in crime history. Unsurprisingly scriptwriter Dick Sharples had never worked on the series.
Both Brian Murphy and Yootha Joyce make the best of it but the basic ineptitude of the script and the lacklustre direction – with seemingly no notion of comic timing – mean that nothing can be salvaged despite their efforts. Other cast members such as Stratford Johns in the role of a wig adorned crime boss and Please Sir! star David Barry seem to be acting on autopilot. Only Kenneth Cope offers a glimmer of comic potential as a stressed out hitman.
George and Mildred was one of the better sitcoms of the seventies but on viewing this film it would be impossible to see why. Even hardcore fans of the television series are best advised to give this a wide berth. The whole affair is made all the more unpalatable when taking into account the death of Yootha Joyce shortly after filming. The final shot of the film, in which she gives a naughty wink to camera, is given added poignancy by this fact but this is hardly a fitting tribute to her. Stick with repeats of the series.