Thursday, 19 February 2015

Bless This House (1972)

For a brief period in the 1970s, it seemed every British sitcom had a tie-in movie in the cinemas. Some, such as Dad's Army or Till Death Us Do Part took the opportunity to use the medium and explore the characters and their back-story more fully than on the small screen, while others, such as Bless This House simply felt like several TV episodes hastily cobbled together and just as hastily filmed.

The set up is the same as on the show, with Sid James playing Sid Abbott, a salesman for a stationery company, living in suburban semi-detached splendour with his wife Jean (Diana Coupland) and teenage children, art student Mike (Robin Askwith) and protesting do-gooder Sally. Sid and Jean are always plotting (largely harmless) schemes behind each other’s backs, and neither can understand the kids and, this being the 70s, their permissive society.

The various story lines feature Sid setting up a whisky distillery in his shed with his best friend Trevor (Peter Butterworth), Jean setting up an antique stall with her best friend Betty (Patsy Rowlands), Sally turning into an eco-warrior and Mike falling for the daughter of the snooty new next door neighbours (Terry Scott and June Whitfield)

Contemporary issues and themes such as Women's Lib and environmental activism are thrown in to the mix in order to keep things moving, but are quickly discarded, and most of the laughs come from pratfalls and slapstick rather than situations and one-liners

The only real bit of sustained plotting comes with star crossed lovers Mike and Kate falling in love and wanting to get married, although this is not really mined for tension or laughs. (Given the breathless pace at which the story moves along towards the end, it does make me wonder whether scenes were cut or scripted but simply not filmed)

The film is produced and directed by Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas, who performed, respectively the same tasks on the Carry On films, which also regularly featured James, Butterworth, Scott, Whitfield and Rowlands, and so the filmmaking is efficient if unremarkable. The stars do their best, trying to inject some life into the rather anodyne material, but the whole thing lacks the ribald energy of the best of the Carry On series.