7 October 2005 | gnb
It was something of a trend in the 70s to make film versions of popular sit-coms of the day. With one or two exceptions these were cheaply made, second-rate efforts intended to cash in on the success of a popular TV show and were therefore largely embarrassing to watch. The first Steptoe and Son movie does, however, work fairly well.
The grit and seediness of the Steptoe's environment transfers very well to film and we get a valuable glimpse of a part of London which was grey, dilapidated and depressing...something we are never privy to in the TV series. With film censorship being slightly more relaxed than what could be seen or heard on television we get some hilarious outbursts from Harold and Albert, liberally peppered with swear words.
Of course the TV version of Steptoe is a sit-com and while this is funny in places the genuine tragedy of Harold and Albert's situation takes centre stage. Harold ends up getting hitched to a stripper but the match is doomed from the start due to his mixed feelings: all he wants to do is get away from his father and make something of himself yet abandoning him is the one thing he cannot do. We really do sympathise with Harold's plight in this movie and despise Albert's deviousness and thwarting him at every turn.
Of course, such sombre elements existed in the TV programme but due to them being mixed with relatively rapid comedy in 25 minute slots we accepted the character's situation without dwelling on it too much. This time round, with a longer running time and the tragi-drama fleshed out it sometimes makes for uncomfortable viewing.
All the leads perform well and this is a better example of how TV sit-coms could work as cinema spectaculars. Indeed, even if the characters weren't known from TV this has the potential to function well as a stand-alone movie.
See it and be pleasantly surprised.