Over the years, many television comedians have tried to make the jump into movies, with varying degrees of success. Morecambe & Wise made three vehicles, but never seemed to find the right one. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore fared somewhat better with 'Bedazzled' ( 1967 ), but went downhill from there. More recently, Harry Enfield came unstuck in 'Kevin & Perry Go Large', and the less said about Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson's 'Guest House Paradiso' the better.
In 1972, Dick Emery starred in this racy comedy, written specially for him by his regular writers, John Warren and John Singer. It cast him as 'Charlie Tully', a Cockney con man with a unique talent for getting the rich to part with their money. They believe everything he says.
With his friend Reggie Campbell-Peek ( Ronald Fraser ), they swindle £500,000 out of an Italian millionaire by pretending to be representatives of the British Royal Family. Naturally, said millionaire is not happy and calls on the Mafia.
Charlie is arrested at Heathrow Airport and months later emerges from jail to find Reggie has deposited the money in a Swiss bank. Before he can tell him more, he is killed when part of a building collapses on him.
Not only is the Mafia after Charlie but also London gangsters headed by Sid Sabbath ( Derren Nesbitt ), an outfit which, according to Charlie 'makes the Kray Twins look like The Beverley Sisters'.
Charlie tracks down four of Reggie's old girlfriends, each of whom has a portion of the name of the bank and account number tattooed on her posterior. Each murder attempt on Charlie is thwarted by the 'London Family', who want him alive long enough to find out where the money is...
I have fond memories of the first time I saw this. It was December 1974 and, as a traditional end-of-term treat, we got a film at school. I don't know who selected this, obviously someone must have thought it would be cosy family entertainment. The draughty dinner hall was full of red faces ( mostly the teachers ) which got redder as the film, with its cartoon violence, female nudity ( including Liza Goddard ) and over-ripe innuendo, progressed. Of course we dirty-minded kids loved every wicked minute of it!
Warren and Singer's inventive script gives Emery full rein to display his talents for multi-characterisation ( old favourites such as 'Mandy', 'Lampwick', 'Hettie The Spinster' appear. Pity room was not found for 'The Rev. Chislet' and 'Bovver Boy' ), and is helped by Cliff Owen's glossy direction. Christopher Gunning's music is good too, at times you can pick out snatches of the 'Poirot' theme to be!
The excellent supporting cast included Ronald Fraser, Pat Coombs, Derren Nesbitt, Cheryl Kennedy ( nice bum, Cheryl ) and Norman Bird amongst others.
Yes, its dated and sexist, but still good fun. The only negative point would be the somewhat flat ending in which Charlie, dressed as a priest, tries to sell the Sistine Chapel to a couple of American tourists. I would have liked something more akin to the finale of 'The Italian Job'. It is strange though that this film did not lead to others for the star. He resumed his television series, and stayed with it until his death in 1983.