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  • I watched fantabulosa! because over the last few years Michael Sheen has become one of my favourite actors, and if you haven't seen him in anything before firstly shame on you, and secondly get your hands on a copy of either Heartlands or Dirty Filthy Love. This production did not disappoint - Michael Sheen transformed himself almost magically into Kenneth Williams, and gave a performance that was as tragically moving as it was skillful. Not to take anything away from the other performances but like Kenneth, Michael truly stole the show. I don't know how he does it, but every performance I have seen Michael give he seems to metamorphose until the character he plays is truly, utterly believable, and no matter how hard I try I cannot fault him. Must go get my tea, enjoy!
  • A lot of my childhood was spent lying in front of the wireless listening to Round the Horne or Hancock's Half Hour or watching Carry On films. Probably the most famous line in comedy "Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it infamy!" still makes me laugh.

    This is a rare insight into the man behind the comic figure and the whole production is a brilliant mix of tragedy and comedy right down to the final quotation from the coroner's court read in four different voices by Michael Sheen. He was brilliant in the role. Most of the other members of the Carry On team were so-so and their Kenneth Horne was very good but Michael Sheen carried the show and there should be an award of some sort for him.

    It left me feeling "wow". To quote Kenneth Williams, to the cynic who says 'life is a joke' the only response can be 'Yes, well let's make it a good one.'
  • This is a "docu-drama" of (mostly) the later years of KW's life, with nearly all the parts played by actors (but spot which TV quartermaster plays himself!). It was made for the BBC4 arts channel but my guess is there will be syndication and DVD releases soon. KW is ably played by the excellent Michael Sheen, here repeating his previous stage role with great success. Most of the supporting cast are also very good, and a nice touch is the recreation of period TV appearances with the new actors. This is not, however, light viewing - anyone familiar with KW's diaries and general unhappy demeanour will already know how twisted he could be in later life - so don't expect 80 minutes of Carry On styled buffoonery, since the emphasis is decidedly downbeat throughout. Recommended, but it's tragi-comic, indeed.
  • PaulLondon14 March 2006
    An unassuming but thoroughly satisfying film that looks at the fascinating man behind the pursed lips and waspish tongue we all know from the Carry On films. The film shows us a man both appalled and aroused by his homosexuality. a man desperate for love who pushes away any advances that may bring him a moments fleeting happiness.

    He befriends playwright Joe Orton who is everything Williams wishes he was: virile, self-confident and relaxed with his sexuality. But it is Orton's partner and murderer, Kenneth Halliwell, with whom he shares the quietly desperate despair that characterises his life. Like the man himself this is very funny but also tragic. It plays to the best qualities of British film-making; well scripted. character driven and unflashy. Worth your time
  • I saw this very emotionally painful portrayal and it was fascinating. The conflict between the public and private faces of Williams and the pressure he was under is illuminated in a way that even those who knew something about him would be surprised. The cast acted superbly, but Michael Sheen was outstanding. I only realised it was him when I saw the earlier comment. He looks completely physically different in this role, from any other role I have seen him in or as himself. Williams autobiography differs markedly from his diaries,as represented in this film. The film is at times distressing to watch, because of the emotional anguish displayed. However, it is a worthwhile experience and a film that can be recommended highly.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Michael Sheen shines like the afternoon sun in this brilliant portrayal of a comic genius. If you are familiar with Kenneth Williams' mannerisms and Diaries then this drama captures the essence of them perfectly. When i read about Kenneth hoovering in his swimming trunks i laughed and then it was brought to life on the screen, but this time i didn't laugh as it was put into perspective as the actions of a repressed and tortured man. It must have been such a lonely existence being in Kenneth's skin, craving attention but shunning it when it TRULY mattered! The last 20 minutes are heart-breaking as you see Kenneth gradually sink to the depths of despair and consider suicide as the only alternative. I have seen it a dozen times and still cry uncontrollably at the point where he bids goodnight to LOUIE. I cannot recommend this drama enough. Sexually explicit but it drives home the fact that Kenneth couldn't let anyone invade his world and this is where the sadness of the man lies. For a genius who brought happiness to so many, it's such a shame that his private life was filled with such despair and sadness. Pauly.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A wonderful little production.

    The filming technique is very unassuming- very old-time-BBC fashion and gives a comforting, and sometimes discomforting, sense of realism to the entire piece.

    The actors are extremely well chosen- Michael Sheen not only "has got all the polari" but he has all the voices down pat too! You can truly see the seamless editing guided by the references to Williams' diary entries, not only is it well worth the watching but it is a terrificly written and performed piece. A masterful production about one of the great master's of comedy and his life.

    The realism really comes home with the little things: the fantasy of the guard which, rather than use the traditional 'dream' techniques remains solid then disappears. It plays on our knowledge and our senses, particularly with the scenes concerning Orton and Halliwell and the sets (particularly of their flat with Halliwell's murals decorating every surface) are terribly well done.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Michael Sheen valiantly gives life to a British icon of the 20th Century. Kenneth Williams was the personification of a walking breathing work of art. Outrageous, painful, shattering at times. I wondered how Williams himself would have reacted to this artistic invasion of privacy. I could have done without the, seemingly endless, masturbation scene. The relationship with his mother is closer to Norman Bates and his than anything I've ever seen outside of a horror movie. At times I had a feeling that Kenneth Williams was an alien thrown in our mist who adopted a persona that had nothing to do with his parents. Thoroughly out of step. It left me with an irrepressible sadness but I'm glad I've seen it.
  • '...or wonder about me, and ask themselves what matter of man I was. How to ever tell them, how to ever explain. How to say I never found love, how to say it was all my fault. Who can say where it all goes wrong?'

    -Kenneth Williams

    Michael Sheen gives a terrific performance in BBCFour's KENNETH WILLIAMS, FANTABULOUSA! A biopic based of the late, great performer, raconteur's diaries.

    For anyone who grew up with Mr. Williams, - either in his appearances in the CARRY ON films, or, saw him is such gems as MAKE MINE MINK, or saw his appearances on the chat shows of the 70's and 80's, this will surely bring back memories.

    Mr. Williams was a staunch defender of his privacy. Honestly, I don't blame him. He gave himself, generously, on stage and screen. But, due to the UK laws bearing sexual activity between consenting adult males, Mr. Williams felt that, once he was off the stage, he was...'celibate.'

    While that's certainly not true, as this film shows (based on Mr. Williams' immaculate diaries), he was conflicted, never able to find...happiness in himself - only through the applause he got.

    Michael Sheen does a marvelous job, here - embodying many of the dialects that Mr. Williams used throughout his career, and shows his chameleon-like ability to go from pathos, to bawdy humour in a flash.

    A true comic legend, lovingly recreated, warts, and humanity, and all.
  • STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

    Kenneth Williams was arguably the most iconic star of the Carry On films, with his distinctive campy mannerisms, voice and facial expressions, along with a stuffy, uptight on screen persona that seemed to accompany it. But while he basically played himself on screen to great effect, behind the scenes he lived a solitary, troubled existence, as his diaries, which this TV film is based on, bared fruit to, leading up to his (fairly) early death at the age of 62.

    I've only just been getting into the Carry On films in the last year or so, but it didn't take me long to figure out which one my favourite star was, or who, it seemed, would have lived the most dramatic life behind the scenes and made the most interesting subject matter for a TV film. Fantabulosa (which, it seems, was a bizarre phrase Williams blurted out a premiere he attended!) plays less like a dramatisation of Williams's life and more of a dark, personal take on his diaries in which he seemed to have written his final thoughts. The colour is appropriately drained out through-out to match the darkness of the content. Possibly before his star ascended to the heights that it would do, Michael Sheen took on the lead role here and, if the film possibly didn't hit the mark quite like it could, the same certainly can't be said of his performance, which seems to be an inspired piece of method acting indeed. He does literally become Williams, getting his voice spot on and his mannerisms just north of perfect. The character he brings to life is a fussy, fastidious man, stuffy and uptight who could well come off as unlikeable to those around him if he hadn't been...well, him. Although he doesn't come off as the most bearable of people, his manic comic persona is enough to pass him off to others. The film also charts his struggles with his sexuality, which he seems to regard as a dirty, disgusting thing in general, confining himself to a solitary, lonely existence with only his mother and a neighbour for company. He is portrayed as a Howard Hughes type character, afraid of germs and spraying things like bedsheets down, as well as not sharing his toilet with anyone to maintain 'hygiene.'

    Somehow, the film doesn't feel all the sum of it's parts, but for an exposure of Williams's darkest inner thoughts and a great performance bringing him to life, it's well worth watching. ***
  • Let me start off saying that I'm not a big fan of gay-themed movies. Let's just say: it's not my parking lot or, as they might say in Britain, it isn't my cup of tea. But I wouldn't let this film pass me by, mainly due to the leading actor and considering that I grew up with the original "Carry On"-films.

    During the 1980's, the "Carry On"-series (under the moniker "Ist ja irre", roughly translated as "It's insane") was rather popular in Germany. Especially the Cleopatra-, Spying- and Camping-episodes were re-broadcast on TV numerous times. Of course, due to the often incompatible sense of humour, the German synchronization was changed quite a bit, often adding additional lines of dialog and jokes, possibly making the films even goofier. And of course, Kenneth Williams was the comedian that carried almost every film.

    Don't expect "Fantabulso!" to be the story of the "Carry On"-films. Though obviously taking an inevitable part in the storyline, the film focuses almost exclusively on Williams and the tragic persona he must have been in real life. A man both driven by ambitious and a sense of narcissism (and that's putting it conservatively), yet too weak to fight off his inner demons, feels of inferiority, doubts or even coming to healthy terms with his sexuality. More so, there is very little – we might even say "none at all" – glamour, as one might expect from a person who was as popular in his heyday. Instead, seeing him ride his bike, living a completely mundane, middle-class lifestyle, we'd never guess that Williams was once a comedian celebrated beyond his locality. Which may have to do with British mentality and lifestyle; here even superstars tend to live rather regular lives off stage, unlike other countries, say the USA, where anybody who has even made an appearance in a reality show will not only pretend to be a diva, but be hyped as one as well.

    Not surprisingly, most viewers, apart from the hardcore-fans, knew little to nothing about the cast and it really wasn't until "Fantabulosa" that I personally learned more about this tragic figure of British TV. There had been a similar tragic actor and comedian here in Bavaria, namely Walter Sedlmeyer (whose life-story was turned into the slightly similar film "Wambo", but unfortunately didn't have the benefit of a convincing lead-actor). Hugely successful and respected during his lifetime, considered a national icon and archetype in southern Germany, this changed in the late 1980's, when Sedlmeyer was found murdered and his secret life as a homosexual and tastes for s/m came to light.

    We could conclude that "Fantabulosa!" has more than a few moments of length and, especially to those who are not familiar with many of the characters and occurrences, might even seem a tad boring. The reason that this never really is the case, is without doubt Michael Sheen, an incredible veritable actor, who has managed to enrich almost all films he starred in, be it in major roles or as support. It is telling when the actor looks nothing like the subject he portrays, but has the viewer convinced within an instant, that he IS Kenneth Williams. The body-language, the tone of voice, the quirks – Sheen is Williams in everything but physical appearance. To mind comes another biopic, namely Oliver Stone's "The Doors", which had people originally complaining that Val Kilmer looks nothing like Jim Morrison, but who got convinced otherwise at the moment that Kilmer (literally) entered the stage. Sheen's performance alone should be worth the price of admission, whether you're interested in Kenneth Williams or simply want to watch an outstanding performance.

    7/10
  • From his early appearance on stage dressed as a girl as a child, Williams was always one for the limelight and always a rather, well, mincing character. It was a trait he put to good use across his career in comedies ranging from Round the Horne on the radio to the Carry On films on the big screen. At one time he was popular across the UK and perhaps the world, with his harshest critic being none other than himself. Being dropped from Hancock's Half Hour for just doing funny voices, he worries that he will fade without ever blooming, but then along came Carry On Sergeant.

    To people of my generation, Williams is famous for his voice mannerisms and work on Willo-the-Wisp and his similar characters in the Carry On series of films. I watched this film to get a bit more background to the man and, although it doesn't do much to really get to grips with the man, it is certainly very interesting in painting a convincing picture of the man. Williams is presented as a rather peculiar man who is confused by his own sexuality, has a very close relationship with his mother, is viewed as a ponce by his father and was quite adored by his fans. The film ignores the detail of the Carry On films and barely shows his famous colleagues but instead focuses on Williams himself, spending a lot of time with him alone in his room, full of self-loathing, self-abuse and self-doubt. Although it is possible after the film to sum this character up into pigeonholes (as opposed to being an unique, real person) it is still interesting to get more information on what his life offscreen was like. It isn't a wonderful character study but it does enough.

    Michael Sheen is a big part of the film working because he not only gets the impersonation spot on, he only has the ability to go beyond that and get close to producing a real person. The narration helps him but in his scenes he still produces a real person (or at least as close as the material was going to get). He is the main show here but he is well supported by Campbell as his mother and various impersonations from Edney, Trenaman, Charles, Clarke and a few others.

    Overall an interesting and engaging film even if it doesn't totally get into the heart of character. Sheen's performance could easily have just been an impression but he does well to try and bring out more of the person behind the public personae. Not totally successful but interesting nonetheless.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Kenneth Williams was an English stage, radio and film actor, best known for camp roles in the Carry On films. He was also a homosexual who was desperately ashamed of, and unhappy about, his homosexuality and consequently remained celibate. He died in his early 60s, leaving behind a lifetime of diaries which told the personal story of this deeply conflicted man.

    It is a strength of this film that, notwithstanding that it is often very funny, the viewer is never far away from the dreadful contrast between the fun and happiness which Williams brought to others and the lack of happiness he enjoyed personally.

    The supporting cast here is fine, but the film belongs to Michael Sheen who loses himself in creating a Kenneth Williams for whom your heart breaks in a way it never did for the real person during his lifetime due to the way he kept himself so intensely private.
  • To me, Kenneth Williams was a comic genius. I grew up on the Carry on franchise, and the performances of Williams always were one of the main reasons why I am so fond of them. That's not all, he was a fine comedian with a voice and mannerisms that were so distinctive. I was looking forward to watching Fantabulosa! since hearing so many good things about it, and while I was expecting it to be at least watchable, I honestly wasn't expecting something this affectionate and genuinely moving.

    A big reason why Fantabulosa! worked was the performance of Michael Sheen. Sheen is a brilliant actor, who always gives his all into everything he plays, and while I had no doubt he would be great as Williams, a tour-de-force of a performance I was not expecting. For that's what Sheen's performance is, one of sheer brilliance. He perfectly nails Williams' mannerisms without falling into the trap of falling into caricature, and the tragic elements to his performance are brought out to genuinely affecting effect.

    Sheen has a solid support cast too. We have Cheryl Campbell, who is excellent as the mother. There is Kenny Doughty, who does a fine job as Joe Orton. And there is also Peter Wight who is solid as always. The rest of the Carry On team give fun performances as well even if they aren't the main focus, Beatie Edney and David Charles especially are good as Joan Sims and Charles Hawtrey and Ged McKenna is good enough as Sidney James, but at the end of the day it is Sheen who rides heads and shoulders above the rest. The drama is lovingly directed too, with both the comic and tragic elements well-fleshed out without being needlessly flashy.

    Fantabulosa! is beautifully shot, and the period detail is beautifully evoked. The background scoring is always sensitive and never over-bearing, also it fits perfectly with the mood of each scene. The script deserves a lot of credit; not only does it not allow the characters to fall into caricature or send themselves up and giving them depth and humanity in the process but the comic elements are hilarious and the tragic ones are poignant and sometimes painful. The story is episodic perhaps in its structure, but for me it doesn't matter when Fantabulosa! has as much involvement and heart as it does, and that the story based on Williams' diaries is that engrossing.

    All in all, wonderful and worth seeing for Sheen's magnificent performance alone. 10/10 Bethany Cox
  • Based on material appearing in the KENNETH WILLIAMD DIARIES, FANTABULOSA! offsets Michael Sheen the opportunity to give a campy performance of the kind Williams would use if he were entertaining people. We learned little about the private Williams, his feelings of professional ffruistration and pdrsinal heartache that prevented him from findsing a suitable life-partner or a suitable outlet for his talents. Let's face it: Williams did not have the emotional stomach to try something innovative, preferring to stick with the CARRY ON films until well after their sell-by date. Sheen stresses the performative side of the character, fond of gazing at himself in the mirror and preening himself. Yet there were certain questions left unanswered: why, for instance, did Tony Hancock dispense with his services in the late Fifties? Was Williams as inept as the senior comedian claimed, or did he represent a genuine threat to Hancock"s reputation? If Williams was as difficult as many people claimed, how could he have served so long as a member of their CARRY ON stay, not to mention ROUND THE HORNE? And why did he runs away from a professional soul-mated such as Joe Orton?

    These questions probably wouldn't get answered ;n a b\opic of this nature, but they might have helped to divert attention away from Sheen's overtly showy performance.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I had seen tiny bits of this programme a couple of times, and I recognised the actor who played Tony Blair in The Queen, so I thought I might as well give it a go. It is all about the life of Carry On actor Kenneth Williams (Michael Sheen), based on his diaries. It is interesting to see what interpretations have been made of him from just his diaries, but Sheen does quite an okay job of playing the "Ooh, Matron" gay attitude that many people recognise, but it is also interesting to see what he might have been like in his private life. Also starring Cheryl Campbell as Lou Williams, Peter Wight as Charlie Williams, Beatie Edney as Joan Sims, Kenny Doughty as Joe Orton, Ron Cook as Peter Eade, Martin Trenaman as Tony Hancock, David Charles as Charles Hawtrey, Ewan Bailey as Kenneth Halliwell, Rachel Clarke as Barbara Windsor, Ged McKenna as Sidney James and Nicholas Parsons. I personally preferred the performance of Williams by Charie and the Chocolate Factory's Adam Godley in Cor, Blimey!, but Sheen does alright, and I suppose it is worth a look. Worth watching, at least once!