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  Intelligence Men, The Get Out Of That
Year: 1965
Director: Robert Asher
Stars: Eric Morecambe, Ernie Wise, William Franklyn, April Olrich, Gloria Paul, Richard Vernon, David Lodge, Jacqueline Jones, Terence Alexander, Francis Matthews, Warren Mitchell, Brian Oulton, Michael Peake, Peter Bull, Tutte Lemkow, Johnny Briggs, Joe Melia
Genre: Comedy, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ernie Sage (Ernie Wise) has a lowly position at M.I.5 where he spends most of his time fetching tea or getting his superiors to sign letters, but today he has a lead after eavesdropping in on a conversation with Colonel Grant (William Franklyn). It seems that a criminal spy organisation is about to hit London, but with Britain's foremost contact suddenly dead of natural causes, who can they get to replace him? Ernie wonders that too, and sitting in the local Mexican-themed coffee bar he is at a loss until he notices the owner, Eric (Eric Morecambe) has had some interesting information passed to him...

The Intelligence Men was the first effort to turn the stage and television comedians Morecambe and Wise into movie stars in the vein of Norman Wisdom, whose hit comedies producer Hugh Stewart had funded, but Wisdom would be moving on and Stewart was on the lookout for replacements. On the small screen, the double act were genuine stars and well on their way to being the most beloved comedy duo of the nation, but even in the sixties, a decade before their hugely successful time in the seventies, they were better than the material here would allow.

Not that this is a terrible film, it's simply that their freewheeling, quip-filled style was ill-suited to the more constraining conventions of the film world, where they had to stick to the story and any routines (the judo demonstration, for example) were pretty obviously crowbarred in due to not having much bearing on the rest of the film. It's pretty clear that Eric was considered the star turn in this, as Ern only has one real running gag in the whole picture and that is to keep turning up in a variety of disguises, every one of which impresses Eric.

As this was the mid-sixties, the subject for comedy was a James Bond spoof, but this was pretty blatantly exercised on such a low budget - it presumably went on the cost of the colour film stock - that the expected exotic locations are off the menu - not so much as a back-projected sunset over the Mediterranean here. There are glamorous women, and Eric comes across as utterly sex-starved because the sole reason he allows himself to be recruited by M.I.5 is to, erm, meet women - believing the old 007 effect will do wonders for his love life (it doesn't - there is no love interest present).

Most of the first half is taken up with a spot of farce at a posh hotel where Eric has been informed by his mistaken contact that he must attend a party there. This is where he meets a variety of shady characters including the beautiful enemy agent Gina Carlotti (Gloria Paul) who he attempts to seduce, but she has him wrapped around her little finger and he ends up disposing of a body for her. It's all to do with a scheme to bump off a visiting Russian ballerina (April Olrich), which leads up to a finale with Eric and Ernie doing their best to foil it as the Swan Lake ballet is taking place. There are a few funny lines, and the duo's charm and strenuous efforts do pay off to an extent, but the chemistry we saw on television isn't so much in evidence, perhaps because sketches were their true element. Music by Philip Green.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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