Saturday, 16 June 2012



It's a British sex comedy from the 1970s: not much usually needs to be said. Invariably neither sexy nor funny, the sub-Carry On mix of familiar sitcom regulars, childish knockabout and comedic softcore raunch fuelled far more lame and unerotic trash than we could ever have needed. The Carry On series itself became coarser and cruder (Carry On Dick was probably the first one that's noticeably offensive) and the Confessions Of... series incorporated full nudity; proof that dirty old men were obviously willing to sit through absolutely anything if there was some grunting and knockers on view. If you believe Wikipedia, the fifth Confessions movie would have been Confessions Of A Plumber's Mate but this entirely unrelated and unconnected and in no way identical film appeared instead.

What's surprising about Adventures Of A Plumber's Mate isn't that it isn't funny - none of these things are funny although Eskimo Nell has a certain charm about it - but there are great chunks of the movie that clearly aren't even supposed to be funny. It's almost as if two movies have been spliced together: a grim and downbeat drama about poverty, debt and failure, and a cheery farce full of tits and pratfalls. Charmless Sid South (Christopher Neil) is a plumber's mate living in a squalid flat, overdue with the rent and owing £900 to gangster Arthur Mullard, with only his occasional plumbing jobs for a meagre income. The only way out is the world of crime: a succession of dubious assignments from Willie Rushton including blackmail, casing a jeweller's for a robbery and art theft. But they all go wrong....

And in between the misery there's sudden outbursts of nudity and silliness, making the movie feel like an episode of EastEnders as directed by Benny Hill: Stephen Lewis turns up doing his On The Buses routine, there's a shower scene at the ladies tennis club (including Suzy Mandel), a violent massage from a large topless woman, a swingers' orgy (featuring Christopher Biggins pathetically obsessed with his inflatable girlfriend), a bit of bondage, a waste disposal that hilariously rips a woman's dress off. Then it's back to the despair and futility and the very real threat of violence against our frankly unsympathetic hero. It's a curious mixture of underclass hopelessness, naked women and feelgood slapstick, like a Carry On Ken Loach. None of it works and it isn't much fun, even in the bits that are supposed to be. It may be a while before I look at any more in the genre.


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