It's another day in the Guest House Paradiso, a hotel on the scenic coast of England, rather close to the edge of a cliff and a nuclear power station which looms over it. For owners Richie Twat, pronounced "Thwaite", as he never tires of telling people (played by Rik Mayall), and Eddie Elizabeth Ndingombaba (Adrian Edmonson) it's a chance to scrape a living in one of the most rundown establishments in the country, though this morning Richie may have woken up and prepared for the day, but Eddie is nowhere to be seen (though he has set up recordings in his room to make it sound as if he is there). Where he actually is turns out to be asleep on top of a motorbike, and he'd better wake up because it's in motion...
It's safe to say Mayall and Edmonson's film of their longstanding comedy partnership did not receive a warm reception when it first arrived, this in spite of the worry caused by Rik's then-recent quad bike accident which nearly killed him. You might have expected some goodwill stemming from that at least, but the critics hated this and even their fans were unhappy about what they regarded as a sub-par translation of the duo's sitcom Bottom to the big screen, with the result that it underperformed in cinemas. Ah, but then there was the magic of home video to claw back what many saw as a tainted reputation, where a few doughty voices in the wilderness, who perhaps had just wanted to see Simon Pegg's debut, piped up that maybe it wasn't all bad.
Indeed, if you had seen it back then and written it off as a regrettable failure, another look may have generated a different reaction if you were prepared to give it a chance. Although it remained no masterpiece, for a rude and crude knock off of another sitcom favourite in Fawlty Towers, this actually contained a good few laughs for those who were not immediately turned off by such seedy characters and sleazy milieu, mainly thanks to the pair's obvious love of the kind of cartoon violence which had prospered for decades, from Tex Avery to Tom and Jerry and any number of Loony Tunes. Only here they went further than those shorts in that they would never have featured their characters getting kicked repeatedly in the bollocks.
The invention Rik and Ade, who both scripted as Rik recuperated from his mishap, displayed was genuinely impressive: if you really had to craft something this vulgar, then to go about it with such dedication was something to behold. They did say this was not Bottom: The Movie when doing publicity - there was a highly unlikely deus ex machina of a happy ending here for a start, you would never have had that on television - but seeing as how they were behaving much as they always had, only if anything going more extreme, you could forgive the comparisons. Indeed, in this case Richie especially had been transformed into a desperate pervert who spies on all the guests for his dubious pleasure and at one point winds up sporting red, rubber lingerie he has pilfered from one of them.
The story, such as it was, saw the guest house reaching the end of its unnatural life as the proprietors see their waiter and chef exit early and Richie's ludicrously self-righteous persona insult everyone staying there except the dotty Fenella Fielding, proving herself game even in her later years. With the humour leaning on the disgusting, and when it wasn't that it was violent, the characters moving into Richie and Eddie's orbits are dragged down to their base level, culminating in a mass outbreak of food poisoning which pushed the envelope for just how much vomit could be thrown up on screen. Before that, the main plot concerned itself with an Italian movie star (Hélène Mahieu) who is on the run from her crazed boyfriend (Vincent Cassel), a man demanding to be married to her, though of course Richie believes when she shows up that he has a chance himself. As for Eddie, he emerged as the most reasonable of the pair, insane yes, but with a curious innocence offset by a resigned despair, something which held true for the underrated movie. Music by Colin Towns.