Holiday on the Buses (1973)

March 8, 2009

This is the third On The Buses film, I got a bit confused after watching the first one (notes here) and should have been watching Mutiny On The Buses.  D’oh!  And of course you know what you’re getting when you put one of these movies on- bawdy humour, outrageous set-pieces and very dated attitudes.  It’s just disposable daftness, no reason to get excited.  In this film Blakey, Stan and Jack have all been sacked from the bus depot (by Grange Hill bastard/big-screen Hitler Mr Bronson no less!) and find employment on a holiday camp.  As soon as Stan’s family arrive to stay for a holiday the film continues in the usual vein, only in summer sunshine- that must be CGI surely!

The usual characters are augmented by a few seventies TV comedy stars (Wilfrid Bramble, Henry McGee, Arthur Mullard) and the change of scenery and fresh faces reinvigorate the format and make the film work pretty well for a while.  It’s unsustainable sadly, despite the film being less than an hour and a half long, and the film grows tired with the same jokes repeated as it limps towards the titles.

So, I enjoyed it- but I wouldn’t want anyone to know that this is my kind of film.  Especially as it features a shot of Olive’s bare arse!  4/10



On The Buses (1971)

March 4, 2009

On The Buses was a popular and indeed populist British TV sitcom of the late 1960s/early 1970s and, as was common at the time, spawned a number of spin-off films which were either extensions of the premise or else rehashes with two or three episodes strung together and re-enacted as a film.  In the main, they were inferior to the original product- startlingly so in many cases- but On The Buses was actually a little better.

What distinguishes the film isn’t any greater sophistication, loftier ambition or production values- it is the budget.  For a programme about a bus driver and his conductor (and their bawdy shenanigans) being unable to stretch to many external shoots obviously prevented logistical and writing difficulties.  In the film, however, we see Stan crashing his bus into a phone box and a bus shelter.  We see him take a driving test on a skid pan, injuring Blakey in the process, and we get to see Stan and Jack trick several women drivers into driving their buses onto the motorway.  Hilarity prevails!  Okay, so I’m being a little facetious but it is still enjoyable in its own way.


I had a really interesting conversation with a guy about British cinema in the 70s last year.  He completely wrote it off.  He pointed to the sex comedies and sit-com spin-offs and contrasted it to what was coming out of Hollywood at the time.  When a man says “while Michael was having Fredo whacked we were watching Robin Askwith hiding in wardrobes“, then you have to concede that he has a point.  But the argument was skewed, that was the best Hollywood would ever get and British cinema was in a rut but still produced the likes of Get Carter, The Go-Between, Sunday Bloody Sunday, The Wicker Man, Barry Lyndon, Paper Tiger and Don’t Look Now.  On top of this I argued, and still argue, that there is some merit in the likes of On The Buses.  Movies, it is sometimes forgotten, are made to entertain and this is an entertaining movie.  The characters, familiar from the TV show, are well-drawn (if a little one-dimensional) and played consummately- not least by the underrated Michael Robbins who plays Arthur.  The storyline, which was little more than an excuse to string together some gags and the action sequences above, is actually pretty interesting and resonant of the time.  Future historians would do well to dig out On The Buses and Carry On At Your Convenience if they want to learn all about Britain at the time.

The bus company, being understaffed are exploited by the drivers who do not have to fear the sack.  They choose to recruit women drivers and the men (portrayed as the heroes) try and force them out so that they can go back to their cushy, well-paid lifestyles.   In the meantime they are still successfully chatting up every attractive young girl in sight despite being middle-aged, out of shape and unattractive (Jack’s teeth!).  What makes it so resonant is the ‘battle of the sexes’ angle- more specifically the blatantly sexist way that it is portrayed.  It’s all done in good fun and there’s no malice to get offended about; if you believe anyone would take seriously a film that suggests all women are moaners who are afraid of spiders and have no road sense then you’ve got bigger problems than this cheeky number.

The point is that this is low and sometimes painfully telegraphed humour, but funny nonetheless.  Is it any less worthy than, say, the films of Mel Brooks?  5/10


One Million Years B.C. (1966)

February 1, 2009

Somewhere in Spain in 1966 Sergio Leone was creating a true cinematic masterpiece in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  At the same time and in the same country, Raquel Welch was running around in a furry bikini watching John Richardson fight off a giant turtle, a giant tarantula and a giant iguana.  Today, I watched Raquel instead.

This is a daft prehistoric adventure that ditches all references to anything historically possible and casts John and Raquel as representatives of the brunette and blonde tribes who meet and find love bringing their peoples together before the entire thing is abruptly halted by a volcanic eruption.  Redheads of the world, it’s these two you have to blame!


The real star of the film, though, is Ray Harryhausen- the master of visual effects.  This is a crappy, low-budget Hammer flick that you go to see either to ogle Raquel Welch in the near nude (and why not?) or to admire Harryhausen’s stop-motion plasticine wizardry.  For me it gets 3/10- all three for the genius Harryhausen.  The rest is tat.

Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966)

January 8, 2009

All that I know about Rasputin (the historical figure) has be gleaned from the title of this Hammer movie and the bit I can remember from Boney M’s disco hit “Rah-Rah-Rasputin, Russia’s greatest love machine”.  So I’m in no position to verify the historical accuracy of the movie.  And I don’t care either way.  I don’t look to Hammer for historical facts, I look to them for entertainment.  And this is entertaining.  Entertaining crap.

Christopher Lee has a ball in the title role as a grubby, bearded, lecherous, womanising, brawling drunkard.  Rasputin is everything that Dracula is not and Lee makes the most of the opportunity to cut loose .  Aside from him, there is little to commend the movie- horror veteran Barbara Shelley does makes a great victim and the plot, such as it is, is entertaining enough.  But you know that it’s all guff.

Christopher Lee has a body-double for a dancing scene who is about half his size.  In one scene there is a man in the background in contemporary clothes.  In a pub full of bearded men- even Mr Barraclough from Porridge has a beard- one bloke stands around in a sixties side parting with neat sideburns.  Not to worry, Rasputin chops his rubber hand off.  He gets his in the end though when he is thrown out of the window and falls like the Clousea dummy that Dreyfuss beats up in his psychiatrist’s office.

Anyway, this is a hammy Hammer.  Completely OTT, entertaining throwaway nonsense.  4/10 including a bonus mark for Lee’s obvious relish for his character.

One thing I really giggled over was the fact that Richard Pasco as Boris looked similar to Vladimir Putin.  I wonder if Putin and Rasputin are related…

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

January 4, 2009

This is pure Hammer and, therefore, utterly lovable- if hardly worthy of admiration.  It is an entertaining period horror which is taken very seriously by the actors and less so by the effects staff (see how they shrink back in fear as the magnified backscreen projection of a tarantula or a horse with cardboard wings stalks them!).

By modern standards it’s about as scary as being attacked by a goldfish being neither psychologically disturbing or making you jump, but that isn’t the point.  It is entertainment- more thriller than horror.  Christopher Lee is a deeply sinister hero, Charles Gray a compelling villain and the script races along with surprising depth and a refreshing lack of predictability.

If you can show me another film where Prime Minister Jim Hacker knocks out a bloke from Emmerdale Farm with one punch, I’ll eat my hat.  6/10.