3 January 2011 | Spondonman
Life On Mars
I'd been hoping for a good few decades to be able to see this one, finally catching it on UK Sky TV recently - was it worth the wait? A thousand times no! But it's still an interesting film in many ways.
The Headmaster (portly Fred Emney) of rundown British boys' boarding school St. Fanny's has the idea of bribing rich pupil (receding 38 yo Cardew The Cad Robinson) with the aim of saving school from ruin. Sharps and crooks farce it out with masters and pupils – and Cardew must be one of the least caddish characters here. St. Fanny's is played either as Narkover or the Chiselbury of Jimmy Edwards rather than the Greyfriars of Billy Bunter – even though one of the louder pupils is played by TV's Billy Bunter Gerald Campion and his form master Quelch (Kynaston Reeves) is also in here. And Emney wears a check waistcoat reminiscent of Billy Bunter's check trousers in the Knockout comic. The film condition is a surprisingly fine sharp black & white, but the film quality is unsurprisingly unrelentingly slapstick, unswervingly cheap and unwittingly seedy in places. Ever enthusiastic Cardew seemed much too happy to bend over for a caning, even showing a lady what would be required. Maybe it just needed the well-nuanced Jimmy Edwards or Brian Rix to carry it off – I didn't like Emney playing Just William's dad either, although I'd be the first to admit he was a unique larger than life character. Claude Hulbert's penultimate film, while young Ronnie Corbett makes an early appearance.
Unfortunately my trusty rose tinted specs in this case are just not strong enough: I suspect unsuspecting people under 40 who come across this by mistake won't understand anything in it at all. But for those of us who can remember a simpler world it's got some non-heavy broad and flat olde British humour, a few nice hoary schoolboy jokes and is a fairly enjoyable time-passer especially if you flick your brain onto standby. If you don't and you're not a masochist then good luck as you're going to have to kiss these 80 minutes goodbye forever!