Tuesday, 28 December 2010



The unthinkable! More incredible than Danny Dyer winning a third Academy Award or a Cm-maj7 to G#m6 chord change in a Status Quo song: this is a vintage British sex comedy that's actually half-decent! Credit for this would probably go to a genuinely funny script by Michael Armstrong, and the talents of its young director Martin Campbell: now a respected A-list craftsman with two Bond films, the two Zorro pictures, Vertical Limit and Edge Of Darkness, along with episodes of Minder and The Professionals on TV - but back then he was working on the likes of The Sex Thief and Eskimo Nell.

Rather than a retelling of the legendarily bawdy ballad, Eskimo Nell is actually a comedy about a young and ambitious director (Michael Armstrong), straight out of film school and eager to start making movies. Unable to get into Rank, Warner, Columbia etc (in the days when all the film company offices were all next to each other in Wardour Street) he ends up agreeing to make a film of Eskimo Nell for BUM Productions, run by obvious shyster Benny U Murdoch (Roy Kinnear). With the screenplay being written by penguin-obsessive virgin Christopher Timothy (I am not making this up), Armstrong finds himself having to direct four completely different versions of the story to satisfy the different demands of the insane backers: a hardcore porn version, a gay western (with Nell played by a man in drag and everyone being spanked while wearing incredibly tight white jeans), a kung-fu musical and a clean family film. Inevitably, the different cuts of the film are accidentally switched just ahead of the Royal Charity Premiere....

It IS funny, and in a genre that's never been noted for any kind of wit at all (see the likes of the later Carry Ons, Confessions Of... Come Play With Me etcetera) that's some kind of achievement. The cast of reliables is fun - familar TV faces such as Katy Manning, Christopher Biggins and Diane Langton - and the focus is mercifully not on the bouncing boobs and bums but the plucky underdogs doomed to hopeless failure through their own naivete. It's certainly not a masterpiece and probably has no audience outside of fans of the genre, but it's cheap and good-natured nonsense, and it's genuinely amusing. Bottom line (oo-er): I rather enjoyed it.


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