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  Work is a Four Letter Word Mushroom Clouded
Year: 1968
Director: Peter Hall
Stars: David Warner, Cilla Black, David Waller, Elizabeth Spriggs, Zia Moyheddin, Joe Gladwin, Julie May, Alan Howard, Jan Holden, John Steiner, Tony Church
Genre: Comedy, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Valentine Brose (David Warner) is a man with a one track mind. As everyone around him works for the huge Dice company, Brose would much prefer to be spending time with his collection of plants. However, he has a problem, his cramped home isn't really the most beneficial atmosphere for growing his beloved mushrooms, so he sets out to find somewhere that will suit them properly. His fiancée, Betty (Cilla Black) wants Brose to settle down with her and get a job, but nothing gets in the way of his mushroom cultivating as he searches the town for a place with enough steam and humidity for his obsession. A sauna isn't good enough, but what about somewhere that will combine his need for a job with his gardening?

Adapted by Jeremy Brooks from Henry Livings' play Eh?, Work is a Four Letter Word is a bizarre, semi-satirical film whose points become less clear, rather than more evident, as the story draws on. If you enjoyed Warner's work on Morgan - A Suitable Case for Treatment then you'll appreciate his interpretation here, as he's basically the same kind of driven character who cares little for other people's feelings and has only one desire, here, to see his mushrooms grow. Why is he so interested in mushrooms? What will he get out of it? We never really find out as the whole set up is designed to expose the mediocrity of the other characters - is he irrevocably selfish or does he have the good of humanity on the agenda?

Although the Dice company ensures that everyone in town has a job, there's no sense of an underclass rising up. If anything, the workers are dulled by their work, seen here as the banal likes of watching plastic daffodils trundle by on a conveyer belt, and have no complaints, accepting their lot in life. It's the white collar workers who are the unsatisfied ones , especially the bosses, as shown by the manager Mr Price (David Waller) for whom Brose becomes an arch enemy. Brose, you see, has heard that there's a job going in the boiler room of the main Dice building and makes it his business to get there knowing it will be the perfect place for his mushrooms.

There follows a selection of scenes where, basically, Brose drives everyone he meets up the wall, from security guards to a vicar who has him thrown out of his church. He does eventually secure the boiler room post, mostly by dazzling the over-emotional head of personnel, Mrs Murray (Elizabeth Spriggs), which involves him sweeping up - a simple enough task, you would have thought. But naturally Brose is more interested in installing his trays of mushrooms and so that's what he does, oblivious to the frustration he's causing. There's a huge computer in the boiler room too - it wouldn't be a sixties satire on big business without one - that promises to go haywire by the time the finale comes around.

Meanwhile, Brose has to get married to Betty. Black seems a strange bit of casting amongst the actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company as the end credits proudly proclaim, but she's not too bad, given that she's not really stretched in her role - she does get to sing the theme song, though. After the vicar throws them out, Brose and Betty get married at a registry office, but it soon transpires that the main reason he wanted a wife was so that she could take care of the sweeping up while his mushrooms take up his time. Breaking into the Dice building with the help of an automatic digger, they attract the attention of everyone in the cast who swarm around the boiler room to for a magic mushroom-fuelled, running about climax. Very much of its time, Work is a Four Letter Word has novelty value, but doesn't bear much scrutiny in its philosophy. Electronic music by Delia Derbyshire.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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