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  Sandwich Man, The Gotta WalkBuy this film here.
Year: 1966
Director: Robert Hartford-Davis
Stars: Michael Bentine, Dora Bryan, Harry H. Corbett, Bernard Cribbins, Diana Dors, Ian Hendry, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Michael Medwin, Ron Moody, Anna Quayle, Terry-Thomas, Norman Wisdom, Donald Wolfit, David Buck, Suzy Kendall, Alfie Bass
Genre: Comedy
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: It is a new morning and Horace Quilby (Michael Bentine), along with his neighbours in the same street, emerge from their houses to meet the day. Today is a special one for Horace because his prized racing pigeon Esmerelda is due home sometime in the next few hours, but as he has to go to work, he cannot be around to check when the bird returns, so over the fence he asks the woman next door, Mrs De Vere (Dora Bryan), whether she could help him out. She is only too pleased, and bids Horace farewell as she goes back to beating her carpet and he goes off to his job as a sandwich board man...

Michael Bentine had made his name as one of the founder members of The Goons, but had left to pursue his own solo comedy after a couple of radio series. By the sixties, his show It's a Square World had been successful enough for a big screen spin-off to be considered, and The Sandwich Man was the result, a good natured ramble around London as seen through the eyes of the character of the title. What made it stand out was that practically every role was filled by a famous face, or at least a performer who would have been recognisable at the time.

Much of the scripting, by Bentine and producer-director Robert Hartford-Davis, involved tailoring the comedy to suit the talents of whatever actor or actress was able to take part, which is presumably why they all seem so comfortable in their roles, knowing that they were brought in by someone who appreciated what they could bring to the party. Even if you don't know all the names, you can be sure you'll know most of the faces if you have watched just a few of Britain's comedy films and television shows of the last century, and they each have their chance to shine with a handful of lines, or none at all in some cases.

The point appears to be to show London in all its cosmopolitan glory, from its lower classes to its upper, from those whose families have lived there for generations to the fresh immigrants making a new home. Towards all these people there is a pleasing generosity of spirit, despite the ignominious treatment many of them suffer as the day progresses, but you can be sure if you tiring of one skit then there will be another one along in a minute that may suit you better. If anything, it's fun to spot the stars, with Diana Dors and Anna Quayle discussing the merits of Dr Kildare and Ben Casey, to priest Norman Wisdom haplessly teaching boys in the gym.

Also on board are Harry H. Corbett working in a variety theatre, Stanley Holloway as a park keeper - there just had to be a park in this, didn't there? - Terry-Thomas as a Scout master who inadvisedly tries to give two Indian jazz musicians ("De Sikhers", geddit?) a lift for bob-a-job week, Ron Moody pulling off a great stunt on a bicycle, and so on. There is a plot to this, in fact there are two, as Horace is worrying about his pigeon and whether it will be first to arrive, and his young, married neighbours, Suzy Kendall and David Buck, are going through a day-long argument that Horace, complete with a twinkle in his eye, will do his best to solve. None of this is taxing in any way, and if it goes for the easy laugh too often, there's no harm in that; after an initial failure, The Sandwich Man has gone on to find a following of those who might have caught it on television over the years, and its relaxed charms do stay in the mind for some reason. Music by Mike Vickers.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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