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  • This is one of my favorite 60's films. It's based on the first of a series of books by Martin Waddell about Gerald Arthur Otley, a young man whose occasional pocket-picking inadvertently lands him in the middle of a spy plot. (The books are great fun, too). Poor Otley's in way over his head, can't tell the good guys from the bad, and like Dorothy in "the Wizard of Oz," simply wants to go home! Suddenly his dull old life doesn't look so bad. There are many funny sequences, but the one in which he takes his driving test is truly inspired.

    Tom Courtenay gives one of his best performances as the lead character, and he's well supported by a terrific cast of veteran character actors. Leonard Rossiter has an especially funny cameo. Moreover, "Otley" has one of the catchiest soundtracks of that era, a quirky mix of classical and rock tunes, and you'll find yourself humming the main theme for days after you've watched the film.

    Why isn't this available on DVD? Or even VHS? It's a major oversight. "Otley Forever!"
  • Interesting little gem from the swinging sixties. Tom Courtney plays Otley, a down-on-his-luck antiques dealer in the Portobello Road in this comedy spy thriller.

    He's kicked out of his digs after he's gone past his sell-by date in terms of the attentions of his randy landlady because he can't pay his way and is forced to go from friend to friend at a party in order to be put up for the night.

    Otley manages to reel in a favour from one of his friends, but blunders into a spy plot when that friend is murdered in the flat and Otley is forced on the run. Otley has little aptitiude for anything but antiques and even this ability has to be questioned considering his circumstances.

    The plot meanders continuously and is a little confusing but is of little consequence. We are not meant to focus too much on it, because the film centres on how this hapless bungler manages to squirm free from one episode to another whilst we enjoy the scenery. A high point of the film is when he goes to take his driving test which turns into a car chase with some villains around the backstreets of London.

    The supporting cast contains some good character actors and includes Leonard Rossiter playing a hitman. Romy Schneider plays the femme fatale, but is curiously underused. An enjoyable 'sub-sub-Bond' adventure if you don't expect too much.
  • 'Otley' is a definite film of its time, showing swinging 60s London and presenting Tom Courtenay in one of his defining but less-known roles, as someone who wants to be a spy but wonders what he's got into when he gets his wish. Otley is an inept spy, and was probably an even more inept drifter.

    Full of colour, with a great score, and many fruity cameos, this film should be better known as it is a lot of fun, with a great central performance and the chance to get really engrossed in the period. Courtenay and Romy Schneider are charming, while character greats such as Leonard Rossiter, Alan Badel, and Freddie Jones add to the overall spoof feel.
  • tomsview25 July 2016
    Of all the spy spoofs that were set off by the James Bond films in the 60's, this was just about the best. Over 40 years later it's still witty with beautifully observed characters, great locations, and a suspenseful story. To top it off, it has a catchy title song that captures the spirit of the hero perfectly.

    Gerald Arthur Otley is a likely lad. He's an opportunistic, occasional antiques dealer - he has sold his landlady's furniture - who gets by on his wits and his way with the ladies. However things get out of control when he becomes involved in an espionage plot.

    He is kidnapped twice and meets some interesting but dangerous people including a female agent, Imogen, played by beautiful and enigmatic Romy Schneider. "Imogen", he exclaims when she first tells him her name, "It sounds like something you put on cut knees". He also meets Johnson, a hit man played by Leonard Rossiter whose light-heartedness about his work belies a merciless nature.

    Director Dick Clement gave the film a light touch, and Tom Courtney reveals a flair for comedy where a look says a lot. The film is almost a cross between "Alfie" and "Arabesque", but works far better than just about all the spy spoofs that hit like a tsunami in the 1960s.

    The film has a serious side and there is an element of danger for Otley; likable as he is, his survival is not a forgone conclusion. Although he is a bit of a loser, his luck holds up despite his relationships with women seeming always to be of short duration. His parting with Imogen at the end after their brief affair sums it up; when he asks if he can see her again, she answers, "Don't be silly", and drives away.

    The film is also something of a time capsule. Like "Goodbye Gemini" made around the same time, the background of the film captures not only the look of the times - the hairstyles, the clothes and the cars - but also the mood, including Otley's casual day-to-day approach to life.

    Along with great shots of late 60's Portobello Road and other London locations, the film has a score by the eclectic Stanley Myers. The song "Homeless bones" co-written and sung by busker Don Partridge, adds the right touch to a film that works beautifully on many levels.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Otley" could be described as a working-class British version of the classic "North By Northwest" formula - an innocent man is mistaken for a spy and hunted by "good" spies, "bad" spies, AND the police - except that Otley himself is out of work at the moment! The comedy is highly uneven, but the plot itself is good enough for "Otley" to hold your interest even as a "serious" spy movie (complete with one especially squishy death, which I won't spoil here). Romy Schneider is radiant and charming, but underused: the film could have done more with its role-reversal of her being in charge and him being the tag-along. Very hard to find today, you'll probably have to settle for a DVD-R copy if you want to see this. **1/2 out of 4.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    There's a fair amount of fun and humor in this entertaining spy comedy/drama. Director Dick Clement has a firm grasp on his material and with the assistance of a very ingratiating cast of players, he has presented us with a most agreeable movie. I particularly liked Norman Rossiter as a cheery villain – now that's a really grand idea which I think I'll use myself in my next Michaela Morris novel. Anyway, all the double-crossing remains credible without ever becoming merely confusing. There are also some wonderful set-pieces such as the hair-breadth escapes and the comic chase with the driving instructor. The director's use of his real locations is exemplary, the pace is fast, and the movie actually revels in atmosphere and style. At times, it's edge-of-the-seat exciting! The director also maintains a very judicious balance between comedy and drama, often using one (for example, the cheery badinage with Rossiter) to augment and deepen the other. Other pluses include a zippy music score, A-1 photography and some really fascinating locations.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Droll British spy comedy from the creators of 'The Likely Lads' and 'Porridge' - Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. Tom Courtenay ( in probably his best film role since 'Billy Liar' ) is 'Gerald Arthur Otley', a light-fingered, Portobello Road-based antiques dealer. When we first see him he is in bed with his landlady, who then evicts him not only for being behind with the rent but also for selling her furniture. Otley searches for somewhere to spend Saturday night. His friend 'Lambert' ( the recently deceased Edward Hardwicke ) lets him doss down on his sofa. Gerald wakes up on the grass near Gatwick Airport on Monday morning. Worse, the police want him for questioning in connection with Lambert's murder. He runs from one problem into another - Hendrickson ( James Villiers ) and the lovely Imogen ( Romy Schneider ) grab him because they think he has secret information concerning a shady news outfit named I.C.S. which is in the market for secrets...

    Based on a book by Martin Waddell, and directed by Clement ( his first film ), 'Otley' is great fun, boasting an impressive British cast ( with the exception of Schneider ). Courtenay throws off the one liners with an almost Groucho Marx-like expertise. For instance, when his friend 'Jean' ( Phyllida Law ) refuses him a bed for the night on the grounds that "the dog is in heat!". He retorts: "She's got nothing to fear from me!". He is no Bond, of course, but manages to scrape through every predicament he's in. There's a great guest appearance from the irreplaceable Leonard Rossiter as an assassin who, when he is not killing people, runs a chicken farm and coach service! Freddie Jones minces about as camp intelligence boss 'Philip Proudfoot', Alan Badel is suave as 'Alec Hadrian', and James Bolam is hilarious as Otley's friend 'Albert'. Schneider is given competition in the glamour department by Fiona Lewis, cast as Albert's wife 'Lin', whom Otley has a thing for. Blink and you'll miss Robin Askwith and Kenneth Cranham! The sparky opening theme - 'Homeless Bones' - is sung by Don Partridge and is as far removed from Shirley Bassey's 'Goldfinger' as is possible to imagine.

    Funniest moment - Otley's driving test. Killers give chase and Otley tries to throw them off, causing chaos on the streets of London. The instructor ( the brilliant James Cossins ) is petrified as his client drives like Stirling Moss! Clement and La Frenais returned to espionage three years later for 'Catch Me A Spy' which starred Kirk Douglas and had Courtenay in a small role.

    'Otley' is not currently on D.V.D. which is strange as it really should be.
  • vox-sane13 July 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    Martin Waddell's OTLEY is about a wannabe second-hand/antiquities dealer (on the dole) who already has a line of clients and who is not particular about how he acquires what he sells. He gets in trouble for stealing an object d'art that is actually a recording device employed for espionage (for one side or the other -- I can't recall which, but it doesn't matter). He is the most reluctant of spies, though he dips and dives, toward whichever side will help him get out of trouble, over four charming, short comic novels.

    Tom Courtenay tries to breathe life to this character, and he is surrounded by some of Britains most individual supporting players (including Freddie Jones, Ronald Lacey and Leonard Rossiter) and the beautiful Romy Schneider. Perhaps they wanted to make a film that was both a spy movie (everyone was cranking them out) as well as a "swinging London" movie (a genre worn into the ground) but it comes off as more diverting than funny; and like most movies of the period that tried to be "modern" it looks quaintly dated. But the stars are always worth watching.
  • 28 August 2012. The droll British humor of this late sixties movie doesn't quite have the snappish charm of Peter Seller's The Pink Panther (1963) nor the American slap slick entertainment of another closely related and even more ironic comedy thriller The Man With One Red Shoe (1985). There are a number of sequences that are quite suggestive of the potential of this movie, yet it seems to be so laid back and in a few places so serious that it never quite takes off. The strongest element of this movie is its ending, yet it only heightens the apparent omission of the potential strength of the movie in the primary relationship between the two main characters. Romy Schneider who had the most appeal in the movie came close to achieving that fine relational nuance that would have taken this movie to a new level, but didn't quite take it over the top. Tom Courtenay only three years after his presence in the classic Dr. Zhivago, explores his range of talent from his previous role as a serious Russian revolutionary and isn't given quite the comedic material to really shine in the movie. Overall, this is a pleasant romp in England, mostly connected with together but not quite stitch up in the intricate nature of great British espionage movies of the time. A more contemporary British espionage spy comedy thriller would be Wild Targets (2010).
  • No way is this film as funny as it should be or seemingly as funny as it thinks it is. But it does have charm, some great and colourful location shooting and some very decent performances. From the extended opening as Tom Courtenay makes he way a good length of Portobello Road to the modest and quiet ending, we smile but little more. Nevertheless the film is likeable and a pleasure to watch, Coutenay is excellent, Romy Schneider lovely though underused and James Villiers who must have appeared in every British film of the time does better than usual. There is also a great turn from Leonard Rossiter who almost brings the film to life singlehandedly. Maybe it was the time, maybe it was writers La Frenais and Clement but this film is outrageously languorous and happy to almost stop now and again. Still good fun checking out the locations and Courtenay doesn't put a foot wrong.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Tom Courtney is perfect as Gerald Arthur Otley, from Martin Waddell's series of books about a wannabe antiques dealer who makes what living he can fobbing off small items of stolen merchandise . . . but who always stumbles into involvement with some arm of the British secret service.

    Otley blunders his way across four hilarious novels by author Waddell, and the movie is a pretty good version of the first, even with those aggravating changes movies always seem obliged to make. In this one the small-time deal in antiques crashes a friend's party and slips a small object d'art into his pocket, not knowing it contains a miniature tape-recorder with a recording a lot of people will kill to possess.

    Among the changes in the story is a very funny chase sequence when Otley is taking his driving test, with an increasingly desperate driving instructor (James Cossins).

    For the rest of the cast, Romy Schneider is a lovely Imogen (though the character is called Grace in the book and seems to be designed with Diana Rigg in mind--how perfect she would have been!) James Villiers, Edward Hardwicke, Alan Badel and Leonard Rossiter all lend their usual level of professionalism to the proceedings. Dump the lovely Schneider and you have the makings of a great Shakespeare flick. Not only that, then-child actor Kenneth Cranham has a funny little bit. And Indiana Jones' favorite Nazi, Ronald Lacy has a good but small part as a hypchonriacal hit-man. And the Likely Lads' James Bolam. They've plugged every part with a rising talent.

    The great Freddie Jones is particularly amusing as the fey leader of a news agency-cum-spy ring. The episodes between Courtney and Jones are the best in the movie.

    And yet the "Otley" movie as a whole never seems quite as good as the sum of its parts. It's like a series of sketches all featuring Courtney's Otley. There's Otley taking his driving exam. There's Otley humping pig swill on Leonard Rossiter's farm.

    Part of this is Martin Waddell's fault. His Otley books do read like a series of events held together as a narrative by Otley's wonderfully understated first-person description of the ever deeper holes he finds himself in. Losing the narration for the movie, they have the same problem prevalent with P.G. Wodehouse or Jerome K. Jerome adaptations, in that the narration is often the best part.

    They also try to cash in on the "swinging London" craze current at the time. Well, frankly, so did Waddell, though for whatever reason he made it clear that, at least to the secret service, Otley himself had far right-wing proclivities (which is good news to right-wing readers like me, who have so few heroes of my ilk in fiction).

    Still, as with about seventy-five percent of cases, the book is better, though it requires some thought, which movies do not. And for those movie goers who can read, chasing down the scarce OTLEY novel will lead to a worthwhile experience, though its price is steep on the second-hand market.

    Too bad. I'd have given it 10/10 with Diana Rigg.
  • JasparLamarCrabb11 April 2011
    Warning: Spoilers
    A dry-humored spoof starring Tom Courtenay as a not so bright English bloke who finds himself way over his head in espionage after the murder of a friend. Courtenay, who can't even drive a car much less handle a gun, is on the lam from the police, the government and shady spy Romy Schneider. Directed by the efficient Dick Clement and featuring a really fun performance by Courtenay (he's really never been this loose), this nearly forgotten gem is a real buried treasure. Courtenay has terrific chemistry with Schneider and the supporting cast includes kinky Freddie Jones, creepy James Villars and sleazy Alan Badel. There's suspense, a lot of laughs and some great music by Stanley Myers. The gritty cinematography is by Austin Dempster, who also shot the other Courtenay spy film A DANDY IN ASPIC.
  • Otley contains several inspired scenes with Tom Coutenay at his most outrageous. But, the bad scenes outweigh these moments of inspiration. This is especially true whenever Freddie Jones appears on camera to take over proceedings. His first appearance inspires guffaws. But his relentless clowning grows quickly tedious.