Friday, 22 July 2011

The Carry On Legacy - Carry on Cowboy (1965)

Stodge City is in the grip of the Rumpo Kid and his gang. Mistaken identity again takes a hand as a "sanitary engineer" (plumber) by the name of Marshal P. Knutt is mistaken for a law marshal! Being the conscientious sort, Marshal tries to help the town get rid of Rumpo, and a showdown is inevitable. Marshal has two aids - revenge-seeking Annie Oakley and his sanitary expertise...
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After the historical panto that was Carry On Cleo (d. Gerald Thomas, 1964), the next in the series plays things comparatively straight. Carry On Cowboy (d. Gerald Thomas, 1965) begins traditionally, with a ballad sung over the title credits, in the style of those heard in such classic Westerns as High Noon (US, d. Fred Zinnemann, 1952) and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (US, d. John Sturges, 1957), accompanying shots of a cowboy riding the plains (actually Chobham Common in Surrey). When he arrives at Stodge City, the camera follows him up the main street until he has to face three gunmen. It is only then that we see that the rider is actually Sid James, playing The Rumpo Kid. After shooting all three he muses, "I wonder what they wanted?"
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This sets the tone perfectly for a traditional Western story which includes an Indian attack on a stagecoach, cattle rustling and a climactic shootout, but which also casts Kenneth Williams as the Mayor, Judge Burke, Charles Hawtrey as an Indian Chief and Joan Sims as Belle, the saloon Madam ("My intimate friends call me Ding Dong").
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Although the British Western has antecedents stretching as far back as the early days of silent cinema, the film was plainly inspired by such comedies as the Bob Hope vehicle The Paleface (US, d. Norman Z. McLeod, 1948) and The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (US, d. Raoul Walsh, 1958), in which Kenneth More plays an Englishman in the Wild West. In both films, bumbling heroes are mistaken for crack-shots while the real sharpshooters are their female companions. Carry On Cowboy reuses this plot, although giving Stodge City an underground sewer for the High Noon inspired finale is its own wonderfully implausible invention.
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Ironically, it was the standing sets from The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw that Sergio Leone used for A Fistful of Dollars (1964), the success of which ushered in the Spaghetti Western and effectively killed off the traditional Hollywood genre that the Carry On team so lovingly parodied.
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Published by


Volume 33, No.386, March 1966, pages 41-2


Stodge City is a quiet town run by the puritanical Judge Burke until the arrival of the Rumpo Kid, a desperado who takes up with the saloon proprietress, Belle, and kills the deaf and short-sighted Sheriff. With Rumpo in full control of the town, Burke contacts Washington for a U.S. Marshal to be sent to deal with the situation, but by mistake a certain Marshall P. Knutt, a sanitary engineer, is sent to do the job. Marshall's fellow-traveller on the stagecoach is Annie Oakley, a sharpshootress who is actually the Sheriff's daughter out to avenge the murder of her father. When Rumpo learns that a Marshal is on the way, he concludes a deal with Indian chief Big Heap, and his son Little Heap, for the stage to be attacked, but the plan misfires and Marshall arrives in Stodge City a hero, unaware that it was Annie who did all the shooting. When Annie learns that it was Rumpo who killed her father, she invites him to her bedroom where she has rigged up a lethal trap. Rumpo is delayed, and it is his luckless accomplice Charlie the Barman who is killed. It is only after he has suffered the indignity of riding out of town with his boys that Rumpo learns that Marshall is not a real Marshal. He sends a message that he will return for a high noon gun duel. None of the townsfolk will help, but Marshall determines to face Rumpo and his gang. Annie loves Marshall and wants to help, but is forced to reveal the truth about her shooting prowess. Marshall asks her to teach him to shoot in two hours, and faces Rumpo and co. by using the town's drainage system as cover. Rumpo's boys are felled one by one, but he himself is rescued by the loving Belle. But Marshall has restored peace to Stodge City and has found himself a sweetheart in Annie.

The introductory scenes make a neat enough send-up of traditional Western routines, situations and dialogue, with a cast largely made up of Carry On regulars. Subsequently there are some quite clever and amusing ideas, but an even heavier than usual reliance on outrageous puns and not particularly subtle double entendres. This, in fact, is the nearest-the-knuckle of the series, and some of the gags make the "A" certificate eminently reasonable.

The Monthly Film Bulletin was published by the British Film Institute between 1934 and 1991. Initially aimed at distributors and exhibitors as well as filmgoers, it carried reviews and details of all UK film releases. In 1991, the Bulletin was absorbed by Sight and Sound magazine

As If By Magic, The Shop-keeper Appeared -Remembering Mr Benn (1971)

Mr Benn was created by David McKee who appears in several children's books, and an animated television series of the same name transmitted by the BBC in 1971 and 1972. Whether in a book, or on television, Mr Benn's adventures take on a similar pattern. Mr Benn, a man wearing a Black suit and Bowler Hat, leaves his house at 52 Festive Road and visits a fancy-dress costume shop where he is invited by the moustachioed, Fez-wearing shopkeeper to try on a particular outfit. He leaves the shop through a magic door at the back of the changing room and enters a world appropriate to his costume, where he has an adventure (which usually contains a moral) before the shopkeeper reappears to lead him back to the changing room, and the story comes to an end. Mr Benn returns to his normal life, but is left with a small souvenir of his magical adventure. His creater, McKee has always thought of him as having the first name William. As he mentioned on a Radio 4 Front Row interview on 14th July 2011. Additionally, scenes before and after his adventure usually have some connection to it, such as the games the children are playing in the street as he passes.

McKee wrote and animated thirteen Mr Benn episodes for the BBC in the early 1970s. These episodes were repeated many times over the years, and many people retain fond memories of him. The episodes were narrated by Ray Brooks, and the music composed by Don Warren.

Although Smasher Lagru features in The Gladiator, he does not appear in The Clown as the book in which he made his debut, 123456789Benn was not adapted for television – thus it would have been strange that he and Mr Benn already knew each other. The Hunter was also slightly altered; the book Big Game Benn features several hunters, but only one appears in the television episode.

McKee has not benefited financially to the extent he might have: "I signed a contract where I only got a one-off payment and no repeat fees, but I've done quite well from a number of other things and I'm still exhibiting paintings." Unfortunately, according to Mr Benn's Little Book of Life, very little of McKee's original artwork created for the television episodes exists today, as a majority of it was thrown into a rubbish skip in the 1970s.

After over thirty years, a brand new Mr Benn episode was screened for the first time on 1 January 2005, on the UK channel Noggin. The episode was based on McKee's 2001 book Mr Benn - Gladiator.

The series was voted the sixth most popular children's television programme in the 2001 Channel 4 poll 100 Greatest Kids' TV Shows.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

Touching, hilarious, dramatic, and completely effective adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel. Nicholson is two-bit crook Randle Patrick McMurphy, who, facing a jail sentence, feigns insanity to be sentenced to a cushy mental hospital. The hospital is anything but cushy, with tyrannical head nurse Ratched (Fletcher) out to squash any vestige of the patients' independence. Nicholson proves to be a crazed messiah and catalyst for these mentally troubled patients and a worthy adversary for the head nurse. Classic performs superbly on numerous levels.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest the 1975 American drama film was directed by Milos Forman and based on the 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckooo's Nest by Ken Kesey. The 1963 stage adaptation of the book is also entitled One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

The film was the second to win all five major Academy Awards, (Best Picture, Actor in Lead Role, Actress in Lead Role, Director, and Screenplay) following It Happen ed One Night in 1934, an accomplishment not repeated until 1991 by The Silence of the Lambs.

The film is No 20 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Movies list. It was shot at Oregon State Hospital in Salem, Oregon, which was the setting of the novel.

In 1963 Oregon, Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a recidivist criminal serving a short sentence on a prison farm for statutory rape of a 15-year-old girl, is transferred to a mental institution for evaluation. He hopes to avoid hard labour and serve the rest of his sentence in a more relaxed environment. Although he is anti-authoritarian with a history of violence, McMurphy exhibits no overt signs of mental illness.

McMurphy's ward is run by steely, unyielding Nurse Mildred Ratched (Louise Fletcher), who employs subtle humiliation, unpleasant medical treatments and a mind-numbing daily routine to suppress the patients. McMurphy finds that they are more fearful of Ratched than they are focused on becoming functional in the outside world. McMurphy establishes himself immediately as the leader; his fellow patients include Billy Bibbit (Brad Dourif), a nervous, stuttering young man; Charlie Cheswick (Sidney Lassick), a man disposed to childish fits of temper; Martini (Danny De Vito), who is delusional; Dale Harding (William Redfield), a high-strung, well-educated paranoid; Taber (Christopher Lloyd), who is belligerent and profane; and "Chief" Bromden (Will Sampson), a silent six-foot-seven Native American believed to be deaf and mute.

McMurphy's and Nurse Ratched's battle of wills escalates rapidly. When McMurphy's card games win away everyone's cigarettes, Ratched confiscates the cigarettes and rations them out. McMurphy calls for votes on ward policy changes to challenge her. He makes a show of betting the other patients he can escape by lifting an old hydrotherpay console—a massive marble plumbing fixture—off the floor and sending it through the window; when he fails to do so, he turns to them and says, "But I tried goddammit. At least I did that."

McMurphy steals a hospital bus, herds his colleagues aboard, stops to pick up Candy (Marya Small), a party girl, and takes the group deep sea fishing on a commandeered boat. He tells them: "You're not nuts, you're fishermen!" and they begin to feel faint stirrings of self-determination.

Soon after, however, McMurphy learns that Ratched and the doctors have the power to keep him committed indefinitely. Sensing a rising tide of insurrection among the group, Ratched tightens her grip on everyone. During one of her group humiliation sessions, Cheswick's agitation boils over and he, McMurphy and the Chief wind up brawling with the orderlies. They are sent up to the "shock shop" for electroconvulsive therapy. While McMurphy and the Chief wait their turn, McMurphy offers Chief a piece of gum, and Chief murmurs "Thank you". McMurphy is delighted to find Bromden is neither deaf nor mute, and stays silent to deflect attention. After the electroshock therapy, McMurphy shuffles back onto the ward feigning Catatonia, before humorously animating his face and loudly greeting his fellow patients, assuring everyone that the ECT only charged him up all the more and that the next woman to take him on will "light up like a pinball machine and pay off in silver dollars."

But the struggle with Ratched is taking its toll, and with his release date no longer a certainty, McMurphy plans an escape. He phones Candy to bring her friend Rose (Louisa Moritz) and some booze to the hospital late one night. They enter through a window after McMurphy bribes the night orderly, Mr. Turkle (Scatman Crothers). McMurphy and Candy invite the patients into the day room for a party; the group breaks into the drug locker, puts on music, and enjoys a baccanalian rampage. At the end of the night, McMurphy and Bromden prepare to climb out the window with the girls. McMurphy says goodbye to everyone, and invites an emotional Billy to escape with them; he declines, saying he is not yet ready to leave the hospital—though he would like to date Candy in the future. McMurphy insists Billy have sex with Candy right then and there, and Billy (and Candy) agree. They retire to a private room. The effects of the alcohol and pilfered medication take their toll on everyone, including McMurphy and the Chief, whose eyes slowly close in fatigue.

Nurse Ratched arrives the next morning and discovers the scene: the ward completely upended and patients passed out all over the floor. She orders the attendants to lock the window, clean up, and conduct a head count. When they find Billy and Candy, the other patients applaud and, buoyed, Billy speaks for the first time without a stutter. Nurse Ratched then announces that she will tell Billy's mother what he has done. Billy panics, his stutter returns, and he starts punching himself in the groin; locked in the doctor's office, he kills himself. McMurphy, enraged at Nurse Ratched, chokes her nearly to death until orderly Washington knocks him out.

Some time later, the patients in the ward play cards and gamble for cigarettes as before, only now with Harding dealing and delivering a pale imitation of McMurphy's patter. Nurse Ratched, still recovering from the neck injury sustained during McMurphy's attack, wears a neck brace and speaks in a thin, reedy voice. The patients pass a whispered rumor that McMurphy dramatically escaped the hospital rather than being taken "upstairs".

Late that night, Chief Bromden sees McMurphy being escorted back to his bed, and initially believes that he has returned so they can escape together—which he is now ready to do since McMurphy has made him feel "as big as a mountain". However, when he looks closely at McMurphy's unresponsive face, he is horrified to see lobotomy scars on his forehead. Unwilling to allow McMurphy to live in such a state—or be seen this way by the other patients—the Chief smothers McMurphy with his pillow. He then carries out McMurphy's escape plan by lifting the hydrotherapy console off the floor and hurling the massive fixture through a grated window, climbing through and running off into the distance.

The film went on to win a total of five Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Jack Nicholson (who played McMurphy), Best Actress for Louise Fletcher (who played Nurse Ratched), Best Direction for Milkos Forman, Best Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Laurence Hauben and Bo Goldman. The film currently has a 96% "Certified Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes,

The film is considered to be one of the greatest American films. Ken Kesey participated in the early stages of script development, but withdrew after creative differences with the producers over casting and narrative point-of-view; ultimately he filed suit against the production and won a settlement. Kesey himself claimed never to have seen the movie, but said he disliked what he knew of it, a fact confirmed by Chuck Palahniuk who wrote, "The first time I heard this story, it was through the movie starring Jack Nicholson. A movie that Kesey once told me he disliked".