By almost any criterion, 'Boots! Boots!' is an incredibly crude and primitive film. It was made in two weeks, on a shoestring budget, in a room above a garage off Regent Street. Although the action takes place in several different rooms of an hotel, the entire film was shot in one room, with the furniture and set dressing changed very slightly for the different settings.
However, 'Boots! Boots!' is a vitally important film for two reasons. It's the first starring vehicle for George Formby, and it's also the only film appearance of his wife Beryl. Although Beryl Formby began as a tap-dancer in the variety halls, she wasn't cut out for stardom. She found greater success managing her husband's career, and controlling every single aspect of his life, including his pocket money. Beryl Formby controlled her husband so utterly that he was forbidden to kiss any of his leading ladies in any of his films, and Beryl the Peril was always present on the movie set to make sure this rule was followed. (On one occasion, when Beryl Formby was too ill to be present on the set, the entire cast and crew applauded.)
The title of 'Boots! Boots!' refers not to the Kipling poem, but to Formby's character. He plays the gormless 'boots' (bootblack) in what's meant to be a posh hotel, although you wouldn't know it from the production values seen here. Much as in Jerry Lewis's very similar film 'The Bellboy', there isn't really any plot here: the film is just an excuse to show George getting into various muddles with the hotel's manager, the chef, some guests and the scullery maid. The latter is played by Beryl Formby, who looks fairly attractive in a maid's uniform (long skirt, long sleeves; not much kink quotient) but who proves she's no actress. Eventually, George gets to skin out of his servant rig and get into white tie and tails, performing in the hotel's nightclub.
As usual for a George Formby film, the whole affair is an excuse for his cheeky songs, which here have titles such as 'Sitting on the Ice in the Ice Rink' and 'I Could Make a Good Living at That'. In the dialogue of his later films, George referred to his musical instrument as his 'uke' or his 'ukulele', but in fact his usual instrument was a 'banjolele' -- a short-necked banjo -- rather than an actual ukulele. In 'Boots! Boots!', George actually does play a standard ukulele. The sound is less distinctive than in his later banjolele efforts, but that might be down to the poor recording here.
Beryl Formby does a spirited tap-dance to the 'Chinese Laundry Blues', showing that her dancing ability is superior to her acting ability, but not by much. The direction and camera-work in this cheapie effort are quite bad, and much of the pacing is bad too. Still, for fans of George Formby, this is a vitally important film ... and it's an interesting example of no-budget film-making. I'll rate 'Boots! Boots!' 8 points out of 10.