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  Ups and Downs of a Handyman, The What A Tool
Year: 1976
Director: John Sealey
Stars: Barry Stokes, Gay Soper, Sue Lloyd, Bob Todd, Chic Murray, Robert Dorning, Valerie Leon, Penny Meredith, Helli Louise, John Blythe, Harold Bennett, Julia Bond, Jeannie Collings, Alexandra Dane, Ava Cadell, Pauline Letts, Nita Lorraine, Olivia Syson
Genre: Comedy, Sex, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Bob (Barry Stokes) has moved to his sleepy English village with his new bride Margaretta (Penny Meredith) thanks to her inheriting a cottage from her late aunt. They are not quite comfortably off, thus Bob wishes to fill his days doing something for cash, so decides to take up a position as the area's handyman as encouraged by his wife, and they write out a card advertising his availability to place in the window of the newsagent's. But this is a village whose quiet reserve is merely a front for a bunch of sex-starved women and the men who lust after them, it seems nobody can get satisfaction but now that Bob is here, that's all about to change for word gets around that it's not only fixing the plumbing he's good at...

And him a married man as well! That's one thing which leaves an uneasy feeling to one of the mid-to-late period British sex comedies, more often than not their protagonists were single blokes, and though some may have had a steady girlfriend in the main they were sowing their wild oats, or hoping to at any rate, before they settled down with the right girl. In this case, our hero is happily wed to a woman who thinks the world of him and thus he has no real reason to stray, therefore no matter his goodnatured naivety it didn't really wash that he wasn't aware of what he was doing and forced into these situations with the frustrated wives and daughters of the village. Margaretta didn't deserve that.

For some reason, though this spent a long time as one of the more obscure sex comedies of the seventies, a television showing on the U.K.'s Channel 5 is something apparently half the nation watched, thereby rendering for those of a certain vintage a strong memory of first, the sort of tat that was filling out cinemas in 1976, and second, the sort of tat Channel 5 was reduced to showing cheap to gather viewing figures. In that season they showed the Confessions movies of Robin Askwith too (an obvious influence on this), but oddly it's The Ups and Downs that stayed with late night TV watchers; well, maybe not that oddly, as there was one element which guaranteed it would be memorable, no, not the nudity, it was that infernal theme song.

It shared the same name as the film, with Stokes straining to carry a tune as the lyrics banally told us he was "Living my life the best I can!", but there was something about that earworm quality that made it once heard, never forgotten. As for the actual movie in between the opening and closing credits, it was your basic romp with the usual casting lunacies this genre threw up, notable for those who grew up in the seventies and eighties for featuring the naked form of Gay Soper as what could best be described as a dumb blonde dominatrix. Who she? As if that name could slip the mind, she was the narrator of stop motion pre-school animation The Flumps, and you couldn't get much further away from Pootle, Posey and Perkin than watching Gay in her underwear thrashed with a string of sausages.

About the halfway mark in this you notice that every woman who has wandered onto the screen is intent on whipping off her clothes, so anyone seeking nudity was very well-served. Anyone seeking decent laughs may be more let down, with the double entendres laboured and the humour vainly trying to be of the Benny Hill standard, so much so that director John Sealey (a renowned photographer making his sole film) was wont to speed up the action and even ended this with Stokes chased around a chilly-looking forest by a bunch of underdressed ladies in the Hill manner. Among the actors hoving into view, the most seventies thing this could have conjured up was the sight of a naked Bob Todd as the Squire spanking a woman in the shower while wearing a bowler hat - they really were starved for entertainment back then, or perhaps Sealey misjudged the mood of the nation. Surreal Scots comedian Chic Murray, curiously a veteran of this sort of thing, was the sanctimonious but hypocritical copper, and starlets Valerie Leon and Helli Louise upped the cult interest. Music by Vic Elms.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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