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  What's Good for the Goose Norman's Conquest
Year: 1969
Director: Menahem Golan
Stars: Norman Wisdom, Sally Geeson, Sarah Atkinson, Sally Bazely, Stuart Nichol, Derek Francis, Terence Alexander, Paul Whitsun-Jones, David Lodge, Karl Lanchbury, Hilary Pritchard, H.H. Goldsmith, Thelma Falls-Hand, George Meaton
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Timothy Bartlett (Norman Wisdom) is an assistant manager of a bank, and for him every day, excepting weekends, is much the same, he gets up, has breakfast, kisses the wife and kids goodbye then it's off to the office to see about various clients and their accounts before returning home to eat his dinner, read the newspaper then go to bed before starting the cycle again. However, one day when he is at work, the manager himself collapses and has to be taken to hospital, but the last thing he says to Timothy is that he must attend a conference in his stead, and ever-dutiful, the assistant agrees. He packs the next day, his wife Margaret (Sally Bazely) makes him sandwiches and a flask of tea, and on he goes - to a life-changing experience.

Remember that episode of Star Trek where Mr Spock jammed on his harp with the space hippies? Or maybe that episode of The Frost Programme where interviewer David Frost met the yippies and Felix Dennis said the C word as the show spiralled out of control? Pop culture is full of incidents like that where one set of values is challenged by a new set and it seems like a changing of the guard is in effect, and Britain's biggest comedy star of the fifties and to an extent the sixties had that moment as well, only hardly anyone went to watch it. What's Good for the Goose saw Norman Wisdom, apparently energised by receiving excellent notices for his performance in The Night They Raided Minsky's, a more adult enterprise than he had appeared in previously, appear in this.

Oddly enough, Norman's brush with youth culture was closer to Frost's than it was everyone's favourite Vulcan, as there were some saucy elements added to the mix to illustrate how cutting edge he was now. That this effort buried his film career decisively should give you some idea of how well he pulled that off, not gracing the big screen until his supporting role in Double X some twenty-three years later, if anything an even worse film than this one, but there was another name attached to the credits which may not have made these Goose shenanigans as surprising as you might have anticipated. Step forward Menahem Golan, future controller of Cannon Films, those eighties purveyors of would-be blockbusting trash, here making an early move into the market.

Quite how he wound up partnered with Wisdom must be quite a story, but typical for Golan there was a sleaze aspect as he not only persuaded the star to appear in scenes with a nude Sally Geeson, but Norm got his kit off as well, though with one eye on the Continental market most of this was left out of the British and American release, though that did not stop us getting a look at his arse as he and Sal frolic naked on a freezing-looking Southport beach. What could have brought this favourite of the nation's children to such a mid-life crisis so publicly depicted? He was evidently trying to move with the times, and his brand of slapstick and sentimentality was difficult to adapt to a landscape where the mood was more lax in its censorship, and frankly smutty in its comedy.

Wisdom disliked that sort of blue humour, so the next best thing he could think up, and he had a hand in the production and the writing too, was to place him in a culture clash as Timothy picks up a couple of hitchhikers (Geeson and Sarah Atkinson) on his way to the conference and gets to like their company, perhaps understandably preferring it to the stuffy men in suits that he has to put up with every day. This is where the girls bring him to a nightclub called The Screaming Apple (!) where they teach him to groove to the strains of The Pretty Things, who genuinely were a cool band though they might have been relieved that this movie flopped and the audience to watch them share the screen with the considerably more mainstream Wisdom was meagre. Soon one thing leads to another and he has committed adultery, such a no-no that he suffers nothing but heartache until he reconciles with the oblivious Margaret, and thus the status quo was re-established, leaving Timothy a little older and wiser and the laughs noticeably absent. It was more like a drama, even when Wisdom added a spot of the old slapstick; a curious experience and a little sad, both intentionally and otherwise. Norman sang the catchy but naff theme song, too.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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