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  Holiday on the Buses Innit Marvelous?
Year: 1973
Director: Bryan Izzard
Stars: Reg Varney, Bob Grant, Stephen Lewis, Doris Hare, Michael Robbins, Anna Karen, Wilfrid Brambell, Kate Williams, Arthur Mullard, Queenie Watts, Henry McGee, Adam Rhodes, Michael Sheard, Hal Dyer, Franco De Rosa, Gigi Gatti, Eunice Black, Maureen Sweeney
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 3 votes)
Review: It seems like just another day at work for bus drivers Stan (Reg Varney) and Jack (Bob Grant), but it will turn out to be unfortunate for both of them as they and their would-be nemesis Inspector Blakey (Stephen Lewis) are distracted by broken down cars and a young lady losing her top, resulting in not only a big crash before they've even left the depot, but the three of them losing their jobs as well. Things are looking bleak for Stan, who lives in the same flat as his widowed mother Mabel (Doris Hare) and his sister Olive (Anna Karen), brother-in-law Arthur (Michael Robbins) and their son, until one day Jack arrives to point out a perfect job for them in the paper: driving the tour buses for a holiday camp. They are both accepted for the posts, but have a surprise heading for them on their first day...

For British film studio Hammer the seventies were a period of gradual decline, but three reliable moneymakers were dreamt up in the shape of the On The Buses spin-offs, which has been just as successful in their original sitcom form on ITV. The first couple of films had been basically extended, over-extended some would say, versions of TV epsiodes but for this the grand tradition of sitcom movies came into play with the cast going on holiday, as the title suggests. OK, Stan, Jack and Blakey are still working, but a holiday camp in the shape of Pontins in Wales is nevertheless the location, and once we've established that they all have jobs there, with Blakey on security duties, Stan's family follow soon after, receiving a discount for a stay.

With the cast all present and correct, there's one thing left to do, and that's let the womanising commence. As on TV, somehow the middle aged and not exactly classically handsome Stan and Jack do surprisingly well in picking up young ladies, although in Stan's case any attempt to go further than a canoodle means impending disaster. His first hoped-for conquest is Mavis (Maureen Sweeney), but their attempts at intimacy are repeatedly interrupted by her battleaxe of a mother, and when Stan finally gets her alone on a ferry, the waves are so choppy that he ends up seasick and Jack steps in as last minute substitute.

Still, plenty more fish in the sea, and there is a never ending supply of females for Stan; even Blakey gets a girlfriend, the head nurse (Kate Williams), who is almost immediately seduced by Jack. Meanwhile the marital bliss of Arthur and Olive does not run smoothly, with her terminally dull-witted and he terminally sourfaced, with no interest, sexual or otherwise, in his wife whatsoever. The plot is resolved into a series of sketches, with, say, Olive losing the bottom half of her tragically skimpy bikini in the pool, or Blakey holding dance lessons and ending up doing the Military Two-Step with Arthur Mullard (Blakey is nursing an extravagantly bandaged broken toe - can you see where this is going?).

Wisely not letting any one joke drag on before the next set up bounces onto the screen, writers Ronald Chesney and Ronald Wolfe summon as many innuendos as possible, and the cast enter into the spirit of the thing with gusto - by this time they could have played this material in their sleep, granted. Doris Hare even wins love interest in the shape of a randy Wilfrid Brambell, and whether you shudder at his ardour or simply laugh along is a matter of taste, as is the rest of this cheerfully unpretentious comedy. It embraces the level of British popular humour of its day, and as such is a good time capsule if nothing else. I suppose you'd call it seaside postcard humour nowadays. One thing though: where's Blakey's "Oi 'ate you, Butler!" catchphrase? They forgot to include it! There's plenty of opportunity to for him to say it as well. Music by Denis King.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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