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  Dulcima See How Many Times You Can Say Mr Parker In Ninety Minutes
Year: 1971
Director: Frank Nesbitt
Stars: Carol White, John Mills, Stuart Wilson, Bernard Lee, Sheila Raynor, Dudley Foster, Cyril Cross, Neil Wilson, Peter Reeves, George Hilsdon, Kristin Hatfield, Philip Marsden
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dulcima Gaskain (Carol White) was out with her baby brother one afternoon, collecting wood for the fire that her large family need, when she heard the approach of a Land Rover, and was horrified to see it narrowly miss destroying the infant's pram, giving it a knock as it went by. The driver was Mr Parker (John Mills) who had had more than one for the road, he was absolutely plastered, and it's a miracle that he had avoided killing anyone on his journey back to his farm. Concerned, after witnessing the vehicle hit the henhouse, Dulcima went around to his house to see how he was, but he turned out to be too paralytic to speak, collapsed in an armchair. However, he had dropped his hat, and inside were stuffed many banknotes: she started to wonder.

Dulcima was based on a book by H.E. Bates, the man who found literary fame as the author of The Darling Buds of May, which painted a bucolic picture of the English countryside and was adapted into a hugely successful television series in the nineteen-nineties, a good twenty years after his demise. The books remain popular, but his other work is more neglected, though in the early seventies there were two versions of a couple of them, which have gone on to pick up cult followings while being almost invisible to the wider public. One of those was cross-dressing Army deserter tale The Triple Echo, and the other was this, ostensibly a lighter piece thanks to its broad acting and kidding, saucy mood, though like its companion it took a grim turn.

Carol White was the lead character, a downtrodden young woman whose harsh parents take it for granted she will be at their beck and call and receive no thanks for it whatsoever, so in Mr Parker she sees a chance to escape that and enjoy some freedom at last. Yet it's more complicated than that, as once she has started to clean up around his home, he initially takes her as much for granted as her folks, that is until on a hot day he finds his gaze drawn to Dulcima's ample cleavage and he decides he should really be a lot nicer to this self-invited housekeeper. It's difficult to discern whether she has been planning this all along, or whether the idea came to her organically as she cleaned up and more importantly, began to be paid with the wads of cash uselessly stashed about the farm building, but soon she is blatantly scheming.

Well, blatant to the audience, but Mr Parker takes a lot longer to twig. Although the relationship becomes sexual, with the randy old goat trapped in Dulcie's web (do goats get trapped in webs?) and perhaps she enjoys herself too, there's always the fact that she is a young woman who needs romance from someone her own age. Enter the local gamekeeper (Stuart Wilson) who takes an interest in her, quite apart from the way she is leeching off her employer/lover, which he doesn't appear to be aware of, and it is character study territory we are on here, though Wilson didn't get much to do. The ill-fated White and the much-respected Mills have a field day with ooh-arr delivery in rustic accents, chasing each other about, indulging in seriocomic scenes, just about reining themselves in from going completely over the top, though this is leading to one of the most abrupt endings of the decade, like a steel door slamming down on proceedings. You can kind of see it coming, or be aware something has to bring this to an end, but it nevertheless seems out of character with the rest. That's what makes it a shock, one supposes. Music by Johnny Douglas.

[Network release this on Blu-ray as part of The British Film brand, with trailers and an image gallery as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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