The father of Barry McKenzie (Barry Crocker) has passed away, and as part of his inheritance the Aussie must venture further afield as dear old dad orders him to fly to London to drink in the culture there. Now, Barry likes a drink or three, but this seems a bit much and he has reservations about turning up in the land of the Pommie bastards, but with his Auntie Edna (Barry Humphries) by his side, he willing to give it a fair shake of the stick. Things don't get off to a good start when they arrive and Bazza is stopped at customs and charged two hundred quid for what he is carrying, but once allowed in, he is ready to begin his adventures...
Barry Mackenzie was a character from the pages of the satirical Private Eye magazine and written by Barry Humphries, a man with a keen ear for the turn of phrase of his countrymen, so it was natural that when he came to write a film, he would build it around the comic strip. Adding in his own most famous role, Dame Edna Everage (not a Dame here yet), and the chance to show off his range with a couple of other characters, the film was tailor made to Humphries' talents, especially as he had divided his time between the United Kingdom and Australia and was well aware of the popular conceptions, and misconceptions, between them both.
The film was a huge success both in the UK and its native land, so much so that it was credited with keeping the Australian film industry afloat during the lean years of the early seventies. This was undoubtedly down to the title character getting the upper hand over his English cousins throughout, never compromising and offering a choice selction of phrases familiar to his countrymen. Not that Bazza (as he insists his friends call him) had it all his own way as his movie was released, because he was frequently accused of being needlessly, relentlessly crude and there were many who looked down on the somewhat basic humour on display.
And yet there was a true joy in the language here, a sense of Australians indulging in a celebration of their culture, that means no matter how offensive Barry becomes, he's shown up to be pretty clueless overall, making him something of an innocent abroad. All he really wants is a nice, cool can of Foster's - preferably enough to make him blithely throw up at the end of the evening - and a few Sheilas to share his company, although it's a running joke that in spite of how much he goes on about the opposite sex, his rate of success with them never rises above nil, even though he's not exactly starved of chances with them. So he's less a larrikin Lothario, and more a bedroom disaster area.
The adventures he ends up with include a number of well known British faces, including Spike Milligan as Barry's new landlord, making the most of his gag-laced dialogue, Dennis Price as the spanking-obsessed father of the girl Bazza is being introduced to as a fiancée (but decides against it), and Peter Cook, the man who had the original idea for the character, as a television producer who puts our hero on the nation's sets in an interview with Joan Bakewell, which leads to the famous ending, apparently inspired by the celebrated joke headline "Water Ran Out so Firemen Improvised". In the middle, McKenzie takes a trip around the UK with a van of hippies who want to exploit his musical talents, and he is nearly signed by a bigshot record exec only to blow it when he gets into a fight. He even appears in an advert and is invited home by the model in it, with ridiculous results. If a scene where Barry runs through about fifteen slang terms for taking a piss doesn't make you laugh, this is not the film for you; everyone else will wallow in the cheerful bad taste. Music by Peter Best.