Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Adventures of a Plumber's Mate

To the casual viewer there probably isn't much to be said about British Sex Comedies from the 1970s: If you've seen one, you've seen them all. Not particularly funny, nor particularly sexy and differentiated from one another by their permutations of otherwise interchangeable performers, established and new, often reluctantly taking parts in them as the only ones going.

Stephen Lewis as Blakie, er, B A Crapper

Willie Rushton and the omnipresence of porn

There is an element of truth to this, but there are differences. For instance, whereas the Confessions films were based around a common set of characters and progressed from one film to the next, the rival Adventures films from producer-director Stanley Long had only their titles in common.

Whereas nudity and softcore sex were very much the raison d'etre of Adventures of a Taxi Driver they come across as something of an addition here, in that the scenario could well have formed the basis of a Will Hay, Ealing or Norman Wisdom comedy in an earlier decade.

A homage to Deadly Weapons?

Sid South (Adventures of a Taxi Driver had featured 'Joe North' and Adventures of a Private Eye 'Bob West') is behind on the rent and in debt to a local gangster to the tune of £900.

Always looking for ways to make a few extra pound, Sid asks one of his customers, whose toilet seat he's just replaced, if she minds if he takes the old one. He then sells on to an antique dealer, who duly sells the seat on at a not inconsiderable profit.

It then transpires that the seat is actually made of solid gold, another gangster's loot from an armed robbery a few years back. As it so happens, he's just been released from jail...

Kitchen sink drama

In terms of directing, writing, performances and production values the film is mostly rudimentary and perfunctory. Nevertheless, there is the occasional spark of imagination. For example, following the title credits, atop which plays a breezy theme by lead Christopher Neil, we get a long tracking shot of a bedsit that wouldn't have been out of place in a kitchen sink drama.

Long's experience as cinematographer on The Sorcerors clearly helped when it came to doing guerilla style scenes


Baskingshark said...

The thing about this one really is that it's also actually quite depressing and downbeat and not nearly as out-and-out funny as either Adventures of a Taxi Driver or Adventures of a Private Eye. It has a very odd tone throughout. In his autobiography, Stanley Long talks about how he decided that Private Eye was about a profession that was too glamorous for his audience to relate to, so he went back to an ordinary working class job for the third film in the series.

The other funny thing about these - especially Taxi Driver, oddly enough - is that even though their production values are so low they make the Confessions series look like Quo Vadis, for some reason, they don't look nearly as dated in terms of the fashions and the settings as the Confessions films do. Confessions of a Window Cleaner really LOOKS like 1974, wheras Taxi Driver looks like it could be anytime between 1975 when it was actually made, and the mid-80s.

K H Brown said...

Thanks for your comments. I found Adventures of a Taxi Driver a bit downbeat as well, with the scenes of the lead character's family life.

Weird how these films both traded on fantasy - a suburban pornucopia - and yet had to be realistic to engage with their audience.

I haven't watched all of Private Eye yet, but suspect it will make an interesting comparison with the Johnny Wadd films from the US.