A married couple, Alan (John Gregson) and Wendy (Dinah Sheridan), take their vintage car Genevieve on the London to Brighton rally. On the return journey, Alan decides to race his friend Ambrose (Kenneth More) and his new girlfriend Rosalind (Kay Kendall), in their vintage car, back to London.
Genevieve was written by William Rose and has a reputation for being the very epitome of quaint British humour, with its politely feuding couples and love of tradition. But it is in fact an emotional rollercoaster of a movie that puts the four main characters on a journey into the darkness at the heart of their souls.
Well, perhaps that's a slight exaggeration. But it's surprising how many times the two couples lose their tempers - Alan and Wendy's marriage breaks down more often than Genevieve does. Ambrose, played superbly by More, is a terrible man who resembles Mr Toad behind the wheel of his car, with his boorish competitiveness and annoying laugh. When we get into the race in the last half of the movie, the two men become increasingly devious and treacherous, much to the disdain of the long suffering women.
There's actually a love triangle going on here: Wendy is Ambrose's old flame, and Alan's jealousy turns the race into a contest to see who's the better man in Wendy's eyes. There's more steely British determination in this film than there is in The Dambusters and Ice Cold in Alex put together. Of course, Alan shows himself to be a nice guy after all in the scene near the end with the old bloke admiring Genevieve.
If you want to see invention in scriptwriting, look at the number of obstacles Rose comes up with to get in the way of the old cars. The detail is amusing, too: what sounds like a narrator commentating on Alan and Wendy's sex life turns out to be a radio presenter broadcasting from the rally. And notice how all the men at the dance are talking to the women about cars. But the best bit is when the classy Kendall plays the trumpet.
Something you'd never get in a film nowadays is that More has a few pints of beer before beginning his drive. Still, you can see why Genevieve is fondly remembered. Despite the naked aggression on show, it's a warm hearted film really. The distinctive, catchy harmonica music is written and performed by Larry Adler.