“Rentadick” Directed by Jim Clark. Starring James Booth, John Wells, Tsai Chin, Donald Sinden, Julie Ege, Richard Briers, Michael Bentine, Spike Milligan. Distributed by the Rank Organisation. 90 minutes.
“Carry on Matron” Directed by Gerald Thomas. Starring Kenneth Williams, Kenneth Cope, Terry Scott, Hattie Jacques, Joan Simms, Kenneth Connor et al. Distributed by the Rank Organisation. 89 minutes.
The Moon and Sledgehammer is initially a sweet picture of an eccentric family living in a scrapyard idyll in the woods near Horsham in Sussex. On the surface they are living the lives we all “ought” to be living, making everything they need with good old fashioned craftsmanship, restoring old traction engines, shooting the meat they eat. Subtly though, we are soon shown the desperation and unnaturalness of the their existance. The two sons over 30, devoid of wives/girlfriends/boyfriends. The daughter who runs off from time to time, does something crazy and ends up doing bird. Dad, chain smoking, the great dictator who rules mind and body over his family, cool and calculating, and almost succeeding in presenting a picture to the camera of a rosy rumbling country yokel. The precise outstanding direction makes the film by brilliantly capturing facial movements and mannerisms.
Rentadick the main feature of this ill assorted double bill is the latest British comedy from the re-expanding Rank stable. It tells the story of an incapable private detective agency, which is employed by an equally incapable chemical factory to guard the plans of their new nerve gas, from a marauding band of Japanese gas board people, a kind of natural peril. Despite the array of fine comedy actors, and writers, most of whom have had their names removed from the credits, the Monty Python style which rather weakly takes over the closing minutes of the film, gestures towards 1970s satire – there is a signpost with “Neasden” on it; the film is painfully rooted in 1950s style British comedy, the abject failure of which caused the original demise in film production at Rank and British Lion. Its all here folks – jokes about poofters, car chases in eccentrically peopled Rolls Royces and other old faithfuls; weedy young men fainting at the sight of big busted bikinni clad Swedes etc. etc.
The Carry On Films however, are getting ever more brilliant and entertaining as they parody and mock the extreme nonsenses of British Life and its weird sexuality. In the latest Carry On Matron, Sid and the gang plan to rob a large hospital of its stocks of birth pills, and export them to some underdevloped nation, the Republic of Ireland perhaps? This involves Kenneth Cope dressing in drag in order to pose as a nurse, nutty psychiatrists, randy house surgeons chasing the drag nurse, railwayman, and as always the regulation constipation joke. The jokes are blue and broadly funny, the acting, a host of brilliant parodies of those awful people who live next door and these we deal with every day. Everything’s a send up, including the critics, who constantly pan these films; even the big heterosexual womanisers are always played by gay actors; while the cinemas are full of loud escapist laughter, and occupied seats.