Thursday, October 2, 2008

(half) wit and wisdom (teeth).

When I was a small boy most of my weekends were spent sleeping over at my grandparents with Saturday nights consisting of sitting up late with my granddad on the sofa watching the black and white Universal horror double bill on BBC 2 whilst sipping hot chocolate. Ahhhh those days were fab! It was one of those weekend afternoons that I first came across this movie, my nan, being a Norman Wisdom fan had decided to watch it (believe it or not she's on first name terms with Brucie and, gulp, Max Bygraves-perhaps that's where my comedy genes come from-who knows). Sitting there playing with my Mego Star Trek figures behind the sofa I was dragged kicking and screaming into a world of swinging, drugs and a comedy legends saggy arse. So, when I stumbled across this gem on DVD I knew I had to face my fears.... This is my survivors story.

What's Good for the Goose (AKA Girl Trouble, What's Good for the Gander, 1969)
Dir: Menahem Golan
Cast: Norman Wisdom, Sally Geeson, Sarah Atkinson, Sally Bazely and Terence Alexander.

Short arsed, slack haired merchant banker Timothy Bartlett (Wisdom) finds his life in a deep dark rut, he hates his job, his busy (and busty) wife Margaret (Sally Bazely) ignores him and he feels his life has passed him by.

All that changes tho' when his boss is taken ill leaving Timothy as the only person that can take his place at a high powered seaside conference for important banking types.

Driving down to Southport (or is it up?), Timbo gives a lift to a couple of girlie hitch-hikers, the raven haired, button nosed Nikki (top 60's strumpet Geeson) and her best friend Meg (the not as strumpety, more mumsy Atkinson).

The girls take pity on Tim, seeing him as a wild spirit that needs set free, so decide to introduce him to the way out 1960's psychedelic world of groovy discotheques, dodgy drugs, free love, top pop combo The Pretty Things (man) and (for the love of God no) skinny dipping.

Geeson: You would, twice. Even tho' you may be thinking of her sister in Inseminoid.

Timothy finds his true self and experiences joys and passions he'd never imagined before...but everything starts to go wrong when he finds himself falling in love with Nikki.

Thigh son!

I always reckon that if it's your dream to make a serious film about human relationships, mid-life fears and one mans breakdown you could do worse than watch this movie for inspiration.

I mean, when you think of films like Love Story, Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie Choice you have to admit that the one thing they all lack (and it's one thing that makes them lesser movies) is a barrage of jokes so awful even Talbot Rothwell would balk at the thought of using them and a sweaty comedy star mugging their way thru' the lead role.

Wisdom: Nipples like bullets.

If there's ever a point in time where the British film industry began to collapse in on itself it's with the release of this movie.

From here on in Holiday on the Buses, Carry On Emanuelle and Cannon and Ball's The Boys in Blue beckon...

Wisdom must take the majority of the blame tho' seeing as not only does he headline but he co-wrote and produced what appears to be nothing more than an excuse for him to get his kit off, smoke crack and fondle young ladies breasts for our viewing pleasures.

It's like an ITV sitcom version of The Bad Lieutenant but one where it's the audience violated rather than a nun.

Beware the judder man.

The weirdest thing about the film tho' must be seeing Menahem Golan actually directing a movie rather than producing cut price shite and using the majority of the investors cash to run guns into world trouble spots (strange but true).

Golan who later went on to form Cannon Films, makers of such classics as Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Tobe Hooper's Invaders from Mars remake (plus bankrolling most of his 80's output-says a lot really) has the directing style of a low rent Richard (Hard Days Night, the other Superman II) Lester but without any of that that directors deft comedy touch, relying on hand cranked comedy chases, Sally Geeson's (undoubtedly nice I'll grant you) breasts and groovy (if it were 1966) crash zoom cum lava lamp effects.

"Are we there yet?"

Even by the worst 60's 'yoof' film standards the characters are mere ciphers - Nikki and Meg are feeble cardboard cut out wank fantasies for podgy, middle age men everywhere (I'm just surprised that they don't shag each other during the film seeing as that's the only free love cliche missing) and their characterizations consist of thus: Nikki: cute, dark hair, sometimes pigtailed, smokes pot, sleeps under piers, shags men. Meg: Blonde, leggy, smokes pot, sleeps under piers, shags men.


Geeson: Shoes.

Sally Bazely as Norman's wife fairs no better, veering wildly from frigid ice queen to overly affectionate MILF without rhyme nor reason.

Her character is just there and never changes throughout the entire movie; after all the drugs and shagging she turns up for the films final third when the 'plot' takes on a bizarre twist revolving around Timothy's attempts to persuade his wife to stop wearing curlers and flouncy 'baby doll' nighties to bed and maybe dress a wee bit more like a tart and never even finds out about his affair.

 Just when you think the film is going to say something deep or reflect on Wisdom's characters predicament someone drops their trousers or falls over.

It's bizarre to think that after the burlesque joy of The Night They Raided Minsky's that Sir Norm decided to make a lowbrow poverty row sex comedy for no reason it seems other than to take advantage of the UK's newly-relaxed cinema censorship laws and to give himself a chance to ogle some young, firm tottie.

Nice work if you can get it tho'.

Luckily (for him) Wisdom's Dementia means he's now likely to have forgotten ever making this debacle tho' for us it will remain burned onto our memories forever.


Anonymous said...

Good summary although I do actually like this film. Norman can play it straight rather well. Its clearly a painful end though and agree it could have been more meaningful. One almost feels it had two directors fighting with each other.

That said, I do still watch it and pleased I still have it.

Sime's World said...

Historically, this is the most comprehensive overview of the film. I agree with the previous post, this could have been a seriously good picture if other elements hadn't twisted it in other directions. The concept's very strong and largely unique for the UK. Additionally, the landscape of the swinging 60's lends it an attractiveness that probably wouldn't have worked a few years later.

Obviously, I have re-read the damning press reviews of the time, and while I agree, parts of it are excruciatingly painful, the larger picture (excuse pun) is eternally identifiable with. Perhaps someone should re-make a bad film rather than crucifying a good one. If pushed, I'd plump for this to be remade, and retore the strong concept.

Oh, and I'm off to Southport later this year to find the Sreaming Apple!

Simon Wells
co-author "Your Face Here- British Cult Films Since the 1960's"

ellesar said...

that said - it could be reworked to make a decent film - picking up on his hypocrisy and making it less of a t&a carry on

... said...

I did actually leave a much longer comment that did not go on - don't know if you will be the slightest bit interested!

I agree totally with your critique and enjoyed it thoroughly - I saw this film when I was 13 and thought it was hilarious, then I bought it from Amazon a few months ago and thought that it was awful. I think that I had seen the edited version in the past - though that is not the reason I thought it was awful. It just isn't funny, and it really is a tit fest in that Carry On sort of way that I just can't watch now (again loved them when I was a kid) because they are so crass and low humour.

And the women were so NOT hippies! I guess that a number of young people at this time were wannabes so it is prob reasonably historically accurate, but they were so clean and their clothes SO awful!

Ashton Lamont said...

i'm always interested to read folk's comments! especially the ones that aren't death threats!

Sime's World said...

Oh, and I should add- there is an uncut version of the film doing the rounds. If anyone has it out there, can they email me and let me know? Cheers