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  Just Like a Woman Production Difficulties
Year: 1967
Director: Robert Fuest
Stars: Wendy Craig, Francis Matthews, John Wood, Dennis Price, Miriam Karlin, Peter Jones, Clive Dunn, Ray Barrett, Sheila Steafel, Aubrey Woods, Barry Fantoni, Juliet Harmer, Mark Murphy, Michael Brennan, Angela Browne, Bruce Lacey, Bob Godfrey
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Scilla Alexander (Wendy Craig) has had enough, she is leaving her husband Lewis McKenzie (Francis Matthews) tonight. No matter how much he drunkenly chatters and pleads, she is not interested in the slightest and is sick of his drinking and womanising, so telephones their mutual friend John Martin (John Wood) and demands that he drive over to her swanky apartment and take her back to his decidedly un-swanky bedsitter, where she is assured she will have a room to stay in, at least temporarily. She was not quite prepared for how dingy the building is, and the shared bathroom leaves much to be desired, but Lewis is more concerned that she will not turn up tomorrow for the television show he is directing - she's under contract to sing on it.

Not everyone in the mid-to-late nineteen-sixties was a hippy or a raver, immersing themselves in counterculture and expanding their consciousness, in fact most people were not, though they still liked to imagine they knew how to have a good time. This brought us to the professionals who enjoyed the income to live well enough, but had no desire to turn on, tune in and drop out, so what did they do with their leisure time? Writer and director Robert Fuest had a satirical view of this set, making his cinematic debut here in what for a few years was a very notable and fashionable career until his luck ran out and he slipped into relative obscurity, outside of those cult fans who appreciated his rather marvellous eye for the striking visual.

Fuest had been a television director himself, which obviously fuelled his screenplay here, though you would hope he was more in control of his work than Lewis is, who lurches from crisis to crisis with a split personality thanks to his alcoholism. Sober, he is a worried man, much put upon by having to wrangle his way through the professional herding cats that is operating in television (here ITV rather than rivals the BBC, just as Fuest had been), however drunk, he is positively manic, jumping around and frankly being completely exhausting: you can well understand why Scilla left him. Craig was given a rare movie lead in this, before her graduation to headlining sitcoms in the following decade, most notably with Carla Lane's groundbreaking Butterflies.

Here she demonstrated much of her more familiar persona, except thanks to Fuest it was given a curious setting as he crowbarred in various sequences that were presumably intended to serve up a freewheeling tone, but as they played veered too close to incoherent. There was a lengthy setpeice when Scilla and John (Professor Falken himself, in a previous life) visit an ex-Nazi architect essayed by Clive Dunn, just before he would gain fame in World War Two sitcom Dad's Army, ironically enough, where the director and his designer Brian Eatwell had gone to town on the art direction, with a lavish office, details such as a little Zeppelin that actually took off and flew, and soon after a military operation with Messerschmitt cars out in a field, but what it had to do with the rest of the plot was anyone's guess.

There was an interesting cast in support to the three leads, not only the monocle-sporting Dunn, but also television adventurer Adam Adamant's sidekick Juliet Harmer as a potential conquest for Lewis (Scilla sabotages that sharpish), Matthews' wife Angela Browne with a nice line in acid wit as his fictional wife's pal, Dennis Price smoothly selling Scilla a bath as she becomes obsessed with the household item after her trauma with the bedsit, Peter Jones as a TV executive, but best of all two performances that actually salvaged some laughs from material that seemed a little too personal to Fuest to relate to. Miriam Karlin was Lewis's secretary, making with the quips as the sort of secondary character it would be nice to build a film around, only that never happened, and still doesn't, and writer Barry Fantoni made a rare screen appearance as a spaced out pop star who Lewis is trying to direct for the special, a nice bit of spoofing caricature aimed squarely at the hippies. Other than that, it needed another draft or two to bring out its better qualities; colourful, though. Music, mostly jazz, by Kenny Napper.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Robert Fuest  (1927 - 2012)

British director, writer and production designer who got his start designing The Avengers. He went on to direct episodes, which led to a run of cult movies in the early 70s: Wuthering Heights, And Soon The Darkness, The Abominable Dr Phibes, Dr Phibes Rises Again, The Final Programme and The Devil's Rain. After that, he returned to television aside from the soft porn effort Aphrodite.

 
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