Friday, 11 December 2015

Bucks Fizz

I must thank Nick Wright for unearthing this little gem. It's well worth the 27 minutes it takes to tell its story. Amazingly, I have often thought about it since I first saw it back in 1963, a filler that you'd watch before the main feature. I wonder if it was in anticipation of seeing Tom Jones again. The reason I remembered it was because of something that always caught my attention in certain films made around this period. Many country lane locations were in Buckinghamshire, owing to the close proximity of studios such as Pinewood and Denham, and the highways department favoured a particular yellow gravel as the final top coat. So different from the roads of my home county of Leicestershire that, as now, used the far more common grey chippings.So you'll see it here at the end when the 'homemade' car gets its first run out, as yellow gravel is spun to the sides of lanes in the Chilterns.

The film was made very professionally by BP, from the time when they used a green and yellow shield and the initials stood for 'British Petroleum' instead of the yawn-inducing 'Beyond Petroleum'. Everything is a joy here, the houses with proper windows, the garage pumps, the other traffic. And a lead character who looks like a younger brother of Stanley Baxter. Now there was a frequenter of Buckinghamshire lanes. Essential Unmitigated viewing are his The Fast Lady and Father Came Too. Daddy in both films was James Robertson Justice, always good value of course.

The studio they were made at appeared on a visit to Beaconsfield in the early sixties when I managed to escape from my parents in order to wander about on my own. On a leafy lane I saw a big pair of gates open with the legend 'Independent Artists' above it. A film company made up of actors like Robertson Justice escaping the studio system (ie: Rank) to make their own films. In front of me was a complete street with a chemist, a bank, a greengrocer etc. I wandered in, expecting to be yelled at any minute, but all was eerily silent. Then I discovered the 'High Street' was just two sets of dummy shop fronts, supported by a maze of scaffolding poles at the back. I just stood there astonished, expecting any minute to see Leslie Philips pop out of a door and jump into an open top XK120. Yes, a very defining moment, one to add to my other star filled stories like the fact that a Chiltern cousin serviced Rupert (Maigret) Davies's lawnmower. Anyway, do put your feet up and enjoy this over the weekend.

Note that Ron Grainer's score includes a pastiche of his Steptoe & Son theme. Come to that, he wrote the Maigret theme too. Full circle.


Stephen Barker said...

Peter why did he choose the Bullnose Morris when he could have had what looked like an MG? Oh to be a world with so few cars on the road.

Peter Ashley said...

I think there was a lot of fabulous stuff he could've had Stephen. Like that drophead he opens to find the bloke on the back seat reading Motor Sport. It's those details I loved, like the Triang toy lorry chucked on the rag 'n' bone man's cart.

Philip Wilkinson said...


Jon Dudley said...

Oh joy! How have I lived without this gem all these long years? The scrapyards of yesteryear are brought back to life so evocatively; how I remember their owners, a particular breed normally clad in ex-army greatcoats bound round with baler twine, and wearing threadbare trousers with turned-down wellington boots. The ubiquitous Alsatian dog was on a chain of cunning length, allowing the rabid beast to take a nip out of your backside should you attempt to leave with a liberated Austin 7 halfshaft you hadn't paid for.
I love the way in true 'School for Scoundrels' style the cad with the Austin Healey gets his come-uppance..

Thank you Mr.A, sheer unadulterated joy to a scholar of the Oily Rag.

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