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  Two Left Feet Not Frank EnoughBuy this film here.
Year: 1963
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Stars: Michael Crawford, Nyree Dawn Porter, Julia Foster, David Hemmings, Bernard Lee, David Lodge, Michael Craze, Dilys Watling, Cyril Chamberlain, Michael Ripper, Bob Wallis
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Alan Crabbe (Michael Crawford) is a nineteen-year-old mechanic with a reputation among his workmates for his clumsiness, a gauche fellow who is the butt of many a joke thanks to his inexperience. One day, they all set off for the nearby café to have lunch, and Alan's boss Bill (David Lodge) wants them to take a look at the new girl behind the counter, Eileen (Nyree Dawn Porter) for he thinks they will be impressed. When they walk in, it's true, she is rather fetching but also rather cold towards their unwanted attentions, that is until she notices Alan who pipes up with a mediocre quip and is rewarded with her asking him a lot of questions. One thing leads to another, and whatever she sees in him results in her practically inviting him out to go dancing...

There were two defining roles for Michael Crawford, one in the nineteen-seventies when he played the sitcom behemoth Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, a character everyone in Britain believed they could do an excellent impersonation of, and then the following decade on the stage with the huge success of The Phantom of the Opera, where he took the title role. Before that he was making a name for himself in the sixties in various movies, and Two Left Feet was one of those, though if you were expecting from that title a bunch of slapstick stunts as Frank would have carried out, that was not really the case here. Alan may be awkward, but he doesn't go arse over tit at any point in the proceedings, and besides it would be difficult to call this a comedy.

That's how it was sold, and it does begin with a truly terrible theme song suggesting laughs are in store, but the manner it played out was more downbeat, so much so that you'd be hard pressed to think of much that was funny about it at all. If nothing else it captured Britain almost immediately before the Beatles exploded on the pop culture scene and shook everything up; where they were notable for their sense of humour, the working class lads and lasses here are more prone to bemoaning their lot in life, permanently dissatisfied with the cards they have been dealt. Did this seem dated within months of its release? Possibly, with the Twist the height of a night out, though the reach of the Fab Four may not have been as strong as their fame would have you believe as the Swinging Sixties began.

Certainly by the end of the decade, it seemed as though they had changed everything, so this drab world depicted in Two Left Feet may well have been a holdover from the kitchen sink drama of the start of the decade, only hinting that folks were going to discover their sense of humour, which this could have done with a lot more of. In places it veered towards the bloody miserable, especially as it drew on to its latter stages where Alan's wish to fall in love - or more importantly, have sex - with the right girl brought him to a state of mind that landed him in an utter lack of contentment with his lot, though there was the requisite last minute ending where it was as if the filmmakers finally felt sorry for him and gave him a much-needed break. Before that, he was difficult to like.

Alan wasn't a dullard, exactly, but we are in the position of seeing all his faults all too plainly, and the frustration that he cannot understand where he is going wrong is all too palpable. What he wants most is to fall into bed with Eileen, but that's not what he needs, and his judgemental qualities lend him a priggish air turning hypocritical when he does not have a particularly clear sense of where he is going wrong. We do watch him be quite sweet at times, but those times are few and far between, and that can become tiresome over the course of an hour and a half, especially when the next woman in his life arrives, the troubled Beth (Julia Foster), whose father has committed suicide, his Communist beliefs informing her outlook in a way that suggests she doesn't really understand them and is more describing herself thus as a loyalty to her late parent. It's all far too heavy for a film that you expect Crawford to be demonstrating his comic skills in, but even those parts are weighted down with malaise, leaving an lingering snapshot of the era, but a drag to sit through. Music by Philip Green.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Roy Ward Baker  (1916 - 2010)

Reliable British director who worked his way up from teaboy to assistant to Alfred Hitchcock to overseeing his own hit projects from the 1940s to the 1970s. Making his debut with The October Man, he continued with Morning Departure, Don't Bother To Knock, Inferno, The One That Got Away and what is considered by many to be the best Titanic film, A Night To Remember.

After the failure of The Singer Not the Song in the sixties he turned to television, including episodes of The Avengers, The Saint and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), then to Hammer, where he directed many of the later favourites associated with the studio: Quatermass and the Pit, The Anniversary, The Vampire Lovers, Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. He also made Asylum, Vault of Horror and The Monster Club for Hammer's rivals, then returned for the remainder of his career to TV with episodes of Minder and Fairly Secret Army, among others.

 
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