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NOT NOW DARLING
DVD. Odeon.

Not Now DarlingIt’s hard to imagine a film more grounded in the time that it was made than this movie adaptation of Ray Cooney’s famous stage farce. In fact, should you ever want to send a Guardian columnist apoplectic with righteous outrage (admittedly, not a difficult task), then showing them this film should do the trick. After all, here is a movie about the womanising boss of an exclusive fur salon, who is happy to spend £4500 – and that’s 1972 pounds – on a Mink coat for his would-be mistress just to get his leg over. Oh, and cast members Julie Ege and Barbara Windsor spend much of the film almost naked. Short of a comedy homosexual and some casual racism, it’s hard to imagine how this could be more offensive to your modern socially aware viewer.

But Strange Things readers, being made of sterner stuff, should be able to accept this on face value, and while it’s not exactly sophisticated humour, the film is fairly entertaining on its own level. Leslie Phillips – of course – plays the philandering Gilbert Bodley, keen to get into the knickers of sexpot Julie Ege – and who can blame him? Through a series of contrivances, he has to buy her a mink coat, but to avoid her husband (Derren Nesbitt) becoming suspicious, will sell it to him for the suspiciously cheap price of £500, covering the rest himself. Still with me? Things get increasingly complicated as Barbara Windsor turns up as the hubbie’s mistress and is given the coat instead, Bodley’s wife turns up unexpectedly, and Julie Ege’s clothes are thrown out of the window onto the roof of a passing bus, leaving her literally in fur coat and no knickers.

Not Now DarlingLike all Cooney’s farces, this replies on so many unlikely events and reactions that it becomes impossible to make much sense of what is going on, but the whole thing moves at such a furious pace that you hardly have time to think about how nonsensical it is. If you’ve seen similarly hysterical farces like No Sex Please, We’re British, you’ll recognise the frantic series of misunderstandings and the mockery of British sexual attitudes (I was genuinely surprised that a vicar didn’t turn up at some point), and the cast of familiar faces are all old hands at this sort of thing – the exceptions being Ege, who doesn’t have to do much apart from look sexy (which she does rather well) and writer Cooney, who has a major role as Bodley’s long-suffering employee. He’s unfortunately too prone to wild mugging to really match the rest of the cast. Director David Croft tries to expand the story, but the theatrical origins are all too obvious, with most of the action taking place in one location.

With some Carry On style flashes on nudity from Ege – brief enough not to challenge the PG rating – and some typical-of-the-time double entendres (Barbara Windsor offering to show people her tits – caged birds, obviously), this is very much in the British tradition of being both rude and innocent. Viewers may well marvel at the skill involved in having three cast members (including Trudi Van Doorn, aka Geraldine Gardner) almost naked for a large part of the film without actually showing anything, and it’s fascinating to see how the themes of the British sex comedy could span, almost unchanged, from pseudo-family entertainment like this through to the X-rated antics of the Confessions films throughout the 1970s. There’s something quite nice about that, and fans of the genre will find much to enjoy in this film.

DAVID FLINT

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