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  No Sex Please - We're British Stamp Out Smut
Year: 1973
Director: Cliff Owen
Stars: Ronnie Corbett, Beryl Reid, Arthur Lowe, Ian Ogilvy, Susan Penhaligon, Michael Bates, Cheryl Hall, David Swift, Deryck Guyler, Valerie Leon, Margaret Nolan, Gerald Sim, Michael Robbins, Frank Thornton, Michael Ripper, Stephen Greif, Robin Askwith
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Brian Runnicles (Ronnie Corbett) arrives at his place of work as bank manager's assistant to Mr Bromley (Arthur Lowe) as he does just about every morning, little dreaming of the trouble the day will bring. What he doesn't know, what none of them know, is the local sex shop is expecting a delivery of pornography but their supplier accidentally sent the batch to the bank offices. The other assistant to Mr Bromley is David Hunter (Ian Ogilvy) who lives upstairs in the flat above the bank with his new wife Penny (Susan Penhaligon), and she has ordered glassware - imagine what happens next.

Well, you don't need to imagine as it all plays out much as you'd expect in this adaptation of a stage farce which had been highly successful in the theatre, so a film version was made in the hope that lightning would strike twice. Many of those who had seen the play, which had starred Michael Crawford in the Brian role, felt that they didn't do justice to it here and the production betrayed its origins, but these days when you're less likely to have seen the source you would be far more able to enjoy it as what most would describe as a Carry On-style comedy, and quite a bit funnier than what the actual Carry Ons conjured up in the seventies.

Maybe that's not entirely fair as this would not have been brought to the screen if that venerated series had not created a market for innuendo-laden humour, but they were on the wane by 1973 and here was a cast of Brits proving themselves every bit the equal to the regulars there. There was a smidgeon of crossover, as both Valerie Leon and Margaret Nolan who showed up to strip to their underwear had been in Carry Ons, but for the most part you couldn't quite see Arthur Lowe, for example, trading smutty lines with Sid James and Kenneth Williams. Even if after watching this, it would have been in the realms of possibility, and could have been quite welcome in some circumstances.

But in the main No Sex Please - We're British stuck to the more theatrical forms of farce of the "Whoops vicar there go my trousers" type of affair - true to form, there was a vicar present and correct for one memorable mix up at a church antiques fayre, and someone did indeed lose their trousers at one point. The key to keeping this funny was not simply the script, which after all could have fallen very flat otherwise, but with the cast who achieved the transition admirably, managing to go over the top when necessary but never tiresomely so, as Corbett especially was so effective that you couldn't quite envisage Crawford inhabiting the same part with exactly the same verve. If it was a plot that a simple phone call could have cleared up in no time, you didn't contemplate that while watching.

As the porn continues to be delivered, the problems mount up, with Brian often bearing the brunt of them as David and Penny have to explain away their increasingly odd behaviour as the actions of the unhinged to others' eyes clerk. Not helping is that not only is Mr Bromley planning an anti-pornography campaign, but David's mother (Beryl Reid) has appeared to stay with them for the week, so whenever the hapless trio try to get rid of the material, yet more turns up. This brought out the theme of the older generation being far more conservative than the younger, who still had to reckon with them being in charge when their society was growing more permissive, much to the oldies' disdain, but it was the jokes rather than the message you'd be catching this for. Director Cliff Owen was able to open the play out with location work and a clich├ęd great big chase finale, but it was still a project with modest means in evidence; fortunately it was very funny. Music by Eric Rogers (of, yes, the Carry Ons).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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