Leslie Phillips made a number of bedroom farces in the early to mid-1970s. These were DOCTOR IN TROUBLE, DON'T JUST LIE THERE, SAY SOMETHING, NOT NOW, COMRADE, Spanish FLY and this film. NOT NOW DARLING is probably the best of the five films. Unlike the two of the remaining four films to be based on a stage production, this one doesn't go to great lengths to hide its stage origins.
The plot is simple as most farces start from a basic idea - a furrier wants to buy his girlfriend an expensive mink coat but is worried about her husband finding out. So he tries to sell the coat at a huge discount, hoping the husband will fall for it. One event after another leads to things spiraling out of the furrier's control, with his assistant noting "what a tangled web we weave" (an often used line in Cooney's farces) about halfway through the film.
Leslie Phillips is perhaps at his best in this film. He seems to have a ball of a time as the fast-paced film goes on. His caddish screen persona is perfectly suited to the role and I really couldn't imagine anyone else being able to play the part so well, not even the late, great Sid James.
In many reviews of the film I've read, people have said that Ray Cooney was wrong to take on the role of Crouch himself. I disagree completely. Cooney is brilliant as Crouch and steals every scene he's in with such glee. He livens up the film immensely and it's just as well that he gets such a great deal of screen time with Phillips because they make a great double act.
Julie Ege is fantastic as Janie, the girlfriend of the furrier. She really fits into the world of this CARRY ON-style humour as though she had been in it throughout her career. She is also shown topless several times and fully nude in the uncut version.
Joan Sims and Barbara Windsor bring their CARRY ON personas along and it blends perfectly with the humour of the film.
Derren Nesbitt is brilliant as the bloke who the furrier tries to dupe into buying the mink coat. The expressions on his face as he reacts to the various things happening around him are simply hilarious.
The rest of the cast - Bill Fraser, Jack Hulbert, Cicely Courtneidge and Trudi Van Doorn - are all great too in their supporting roles.
I think the sheer genius of the film itself, though, arises from the fact that 80 per cent or so of it takes place not only on a single set, but in just one room. It's incredibly difficult to translate stage works of this kind to the big screen at the best of times. So Ray Cooney is to be applauded for making such a phenomenal success of it. In a book about Tony Tenser and the films of Tigon (who distributed NOT NOW DARLING), Cooney planned to make a series of NOT NOW... films, in the same vein as the CARRY ON gang had their series. The NOT NOW... films were obviously intended to be cheekier outings, closer to the UP POMPEII! film with Frankie Howerd. Sadly only two films were made. That is a great shame because I would have loved to have seen at least half a dozen of these films made. I've read many of Cooney's farces and they are all incredibly funny and hold your attention like this film does.
One other thing I haven't mentioned yet is that I read the play and didn't think it was as good as the film. The faster-pacing, the cheekier dialogue and the perfect choices of casting lead to the film being better than the stage version itself.
Finally, make sure you see the uncut version of the film, which can only be found on a DVD with a pink cover, distributed by a company called WHAM. All of the other DVD versions and VHS releases are the cut UK cinema version, which cuts out many of the best cheeky lines as well as most of the nudity.
Overall, NOT NOW DARLING is a masterpiece of farce, one of my all time favourite comedies. For fans of 1970s British comedy (particularly the CARRY ON films and Benny Hill), this is a must-see.