Monday, 27 February 2012

Lunch Hour


'Lunch Hour’ is a film from 1961 which isn’t particularly smutty at all, but involves an ‘adult situation’, i.e. two people who aren’t married to each other meeting in a hotel room for sex.

A moment of reflection.

Written by John Mortimer and, appropriately, only an hour long, it stars Robert Stephens and Shirley Ann Field as employees at a wallpaper factory. He is a married Executive (number two to Arthur from ‘On The Buses’), and she is a young art school graduate (she went to Essex Tech) employed to paint the various designs. There is an immediate attraction between them which is consolidated around that marvellous but now defunct social ice breaker, the tea trolley.

He can’t get away in the evenings, so they use their lunch hours for their trysts, snogging in the print store, canoodling on benches, petting in cinemas, parks and galleries often under the disapproving eyes of authority figures.
Not everyone is so inhibited...

'I'm in your personal space, aren't I?'

Keep Off The Grass.
Unable to find a place to be alone the relationship remains on a fairly innocent level, i.e. unconsummated, and Stephens, tormented by unfulfilled passion, is reducing to looking into furniture showrooms and drooling at the double beds.

The Look of Longing.
Unable to stand it any longer,  Stephens finds a quiet hotel and rents a room there for an hour so that they can take their adolescent love affair to an adult level - and that’s when their troubles really begin...

A slight but entertaining piece of work, it took me about thirty minutes to realise that it was supposed to be a comedy, which is not altogether a good sign. There are some clever lines, but they seem forced – obviously ‘dialogue’ rather than organic conversation - and they tend to fall rather flat. Ridiculously, Stephens, who was always rather good at comedy, is given the straight stuff and Shirley Ann Field, who was always rather wooden and inexpressive, is given the bulk of the jokes, and the film suffers as a result. The final dramatic ‘twist’ also relies on a more a more convincing characterisation than Miss Field is able to provide, so it simply doesn’t work.

If the film had been made eight or nine years later, you can imagine that it would be pure knockabout smut as the premise, basically, is a couple trying to find somewhere to have sex and constantly being caught before they can scratch the itch. As it is, it’s a diverting if not entirely successful b picture that ultimately short changes the audience in dramatic terms and in its lack of grown up content, i.e. they don’t have sex and Shirley Anne is given a rather dowdy wardrobe so we don’t even get a glimpse of stocking top or the sight of a conical ‘put your eye out’ bra. Harumph. No wonder everyone looks so fed up at the end.


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