Monday, 29 October 2012

Adventures Of A Taxi Driver

Brit smut giant Stanley Long only died last month, so it feels slightly nasty to say that his 'Adventures of A Taxi Driver' is just a load of crap. I'm sure Stan could have taken my critique, though, he was never a precious or pretentious man. In fact, I'm sure he would have given me a robust response,  something like this, perhaps.

Yer actual Stanley Long.

The trouble is, I can see what he was trying to do, and, in the sloppy execution and lack of attention to the brief,  where it all went wrong.

'Adventures Of A Taxi Driver' attempts to match elements of the phenomenally successful Robin Askwith 'Confessions...' series with something more earthy and less obviously slapstick, almost a documentary based on the real experiences of London cabbies. The reasoning is, of course, that, like all jobs where you come into contact with the public, there are millions of funny and bizarre true life stories involving sex, drama, crime, life, death - all for free, and all there to string together to make a film, and this is clearly the plan judging from the long narration in the first five minutes. The trouble is, it just doesn't do what it's supposed to. It isn't about taxi drivers, it isn't about real life, it isn't sexy, or funny, or remotely entertaining. It doesn't even keep you occupied for eighty eight minutes. As I said, a load of crap, and I say that as a Stanley Long fan and someone who has come to expect very little from films of this type. 

Our Liz.

The only bit of the film that seems to join these dots is a vignette featuring the indefatigable and very sexy Liz Fraser. Liz plays a prostitute who uses cabs to ply her trade - a quick once around the block while she services her clients. She chatters and gossips away, all the while ignoring the city type in the back with his cock out ('get yourself started, dear, I'll be with you in a minute'). Eventually, she starts giving the punter a blow job, only to nearly bite off his boner when interrupted by a sudden slamming of the brakes outside a cinema showing, yep, 'Jaws'. It's not exactly the greatest story ever told, but you can imagine it happening and, with a bit of embellishment, getting one hell of a laugh in a cafe or a pub. Sadly, the rest of the bits of business just don't work even as anecdotes - they come across as the disjointed bullshit of the bloke who nothing ever happens to, but makes up stories to try and fit in. Everyone knows it's rubbish, of course, and everyone thinks he's a sad tit.  

Dors! A regular popper upper in shit like this.

Robert Lindsay omits this from his CV now he thinks he's a proper actor.

Wall of smut. Ten times more erotic than anything else in the film.
Anna Bergman.

She always looks slightly defiant and a bit pissed off.

Faux kidnap.

Faux lady.

The reveal.

I don't know if Stanley actually met with any London cabbies but, if he did, they must have been a dull bunch as the narrative of the film is so bland and repetitive it makes 'Confessions Of A Window Cleaner' look like 'Inception'. What we're left with is long, loose, dull scenes of pathetic banter, the odd tit, lots of mild sex scenes interrupted by husbands or, in one case, a python called Monty, and a lead actor who you'd like to poke in the eye just to stop him winking.  


The winker is Barry Evans, a fresh faced actor who had been playing juvenile leads since the mid sixties. Evans is so relentlessly smug it makes you sick. Robin Askwith was clever enough to make his Timmy Lea character a hapless idiot, a low IQ buffoon who just blundered into situations that led him into having sex all the time. Evans' Joe North is just a really smarmy, jammy git - he's actually quite despicable - you look forward to him crashing his cab or, in a scene where he is 'hijacked' by some excited party goers, that the fellow with the gun would pull the trigger.


'Well, I had to, really, didn't I?' 

Go on, mate, do it!

In a bitter twist of fate, Evans dropped out of show business after his big hit show 'Mind Your Language' was cancelled (for the second time) in 1986 and, eventually, started working as, yes, a taxi driver. He got in with a bad crowd and died in mysterious circumstances (could have been murder, could have been suicide) in 1997. 



Evans' best known film was probably 'Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush', a 1967 coming of age (i.e. boy wants to lose virginity) film set in Stevenage. His co-stars in this swinging little sex comedy included Judy Geeson, Adrienne Posta and Angela Scoular, all present here.

It's quite depressing to see them all together again, nearly ten years on and still pretending to be sex crazed kids. Only their lined faces and tired eyes give them away. Geeson has the best reason to be here, I suppose, as she keeps her clothes on (despite playing a stripper) and was Evans real life girlfriend at the time; the ever shrill Posta does what she does best - she get on your tits, and poor old Angela Scoular is forced to do her jolly hockey sticks sex pot routine (see also 'Casino Royale') and has to undergo the indignity of an awkward nude scene and a bowl haircut. Angela killed herself last year after drinking drain cleaner. It's a shit business.

'Stay exactly like that, Barry, we just need one more take for the German market'.

'Adventures' was hugely successful, but Evans declined to return for the two sequels, stating that he 'didn't want to get typecast in sex comedies' (with the exception of 'Under The Doctor' which he made immediately afterwards). Let's just say he was not always the best judge of what was good for him.



Saturday, 27 October 2012

More Fab FoB

Hello, yes it's time for another slice of Festival of Britain goodness to sustain you in our moribund contemporary existence.
Official poster

As featured on the cover of 'Illustrated'. What I wouldn't give to get my hands on that jersey, or what's underneath it.

Festival architecture re-imagined on the cover of 'New Worlds'. Sexy alien girl seems rather unnecessary.
Your guide to the Festival site
Boss signage. Designer: Robin Day. Lettering: Milner Gray. Mind how you go!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Friday Night Film: The Cabin In The Woods

I don’t watch a lot of ‘new’ films, mainly because I’m still trying to deal with over a hundred years of cinema history but also because, when I do, I tend to find that they look fantastic, sound incredible but, rather like a disappointing gourmet meal, leave you fancying a bag of chips on the way home.
That’s a sweeping generalisation, of course, from a very partisan point of view. Once in a while, though, I see something that makes me feel that perhaps the modern era isn’t a complete waste of time. Case in point: ‘The Cabin In The Woods’.

It’s pretty difficult to say anything about the film without spoiling bits of it, so I’ll try and steer away from the plot, especially as, unlike a lot of the stuff we usually feature, there’s a good chance you might even be able to see this film somewhere soon. What I will say is that it takes the conventions of American horror film (teens, death) adds a big dollop of H.P Lovecraft, a smattering of Arthur C. Clarke and deliberately allows the mixture to boil over into a gleefully over the top finale which keeps on upping the ante until the only logical step is for the whole world to be destroyed.

For me, the best thing about the film apart from the myriad of horror references is that you keep expecting it to cop out - for it all to be a damp squib, a trick, a joke, a dream - but it never does. It doesn't take itself seriously at all, but it's serious about where its going. I can't remember a new film I have enjoyed more for about ten years and, even as a seasoned horror film watcher, I found myself constantly surprised and delighted by the sheer excess and chaotic fun of it all.

So, yes, if you haven't already got a horror film lined up for Halloween (Really? What sort of person are you?) you know what to do. If you don't know what to do, go back to the top of the page and try again.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Hitch In Time

The Children's Film Foundation rattled out about 5 films a year for over 30 years. Never less than entertaining they would occasionally pop up on telly during the summer holidays in the 70s/early 80s or if you were lucky were shown in assembly at school on 16mm. 

Patrick Troughton's in this. Hooray!

 Have guess what sort of part he plays?

Go on.

I'll give you multiple choice answers: 

  1. A Lollypop lady
  2. A New York artist who slowly goes insane while struggling to pay his bills, work on his paintings, and care for his two female roommates, which leads him taking to the grim and gritty streets after dark and randomly killing tramps with a power drill.
  3. A kindly uncle figure who invents a time machine. 

(I'll give you a clue if you still haven't guessed - it's not '1'.)

A Hitch In Time is a quant little runaround with two slightly posh children (aren't they always?) who stumble across the second Doctor - ahem, sorry a dotty inventor who has created a time machine. Before you can say the word 'gullible' they've been transported back to re-live that morning at school.

He's not Doctor Who because he has facial hair, alright?

You can tell it's high tech because it has light bulbs flashing on and off.

The time travel effects are particularly sweet in that they consist of the camera zooming in and out and some off focus lights flashing.

During each adventure they happen across a ancestor of their teacher 'Sniffy' Kemp, brilliantly played by Drop The Dead Donkey's Jeff Rawle. As you can see from the above two screen shots the 'ageing' make-up was done by smearing Jeff's hair with grey paint and giving him a pair of glasses. Class.

At one point they land up a tree. Which is quite impressive (well - it impressed me) and meet Robin Hood. If you try to imagine a really shit version of the Time Bandits made for about 14 quid then you've pretty much got the idea.

Pat acting.
That said, it is charming and has the most incredible radiophonic soundtrack by Twins of Evil and Vampire Lovers composer Harry Robertson. It's worth tracking down just for that, I'll be honest.

Yes, cheerio.