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  Steptoe and Son Ride Again Junkyard Blues
Year: 1973
Director: Peter Sykes
Stars: Wilfrid Brambell, Harry H. Corbett, Diana Dors, Milo O'Shea, Neil McCarthy, Bill Maynard, George Tovey, Sam Kydd, Yootha Joyce, Olga Lowe, Joyce Hemson, Henry Woolf, Geoffrey Bayldon, Frank Thornton, Richard Davies, Hilda Barry, Grazina Frame
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Another morning for rag and bone men Harold Steptoe (Harry H. Corbett) and his father Albert (Wilfrid Brambell), as the elder attempts to shoot the neighbour's cockrel which wakes him up at the crack of dawn. Once that's out of the way, Harold can start with his customary complaining, which today concerns the lack of cash he has to spend on his lunch, not appreciating the sandwiches he is given (and no wonder when they include Albert's cigarette ash as filling). Today will bring something different, however, but more of the same ill fortune as Harold finds himself inadvertently preparing their horse Hercules for the knacker's yard...

You can tell this was made in the seventies because in the end credits there is the line "Grazina Frame - Dolly Bird", which you would not see in the decades before, nor the decades to come. This was the sequel to the first Steptoe and Son film, which had proven lucrative enough to demand a follow-up, although writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson were denied the chance to equal the On the Buses series with a glorious three instalments, so it stopped with this one. As it stood, this was a pity because Ride Again was a definite improvement on the first film, which had been far too sorry for itself to deliver the requisite number of laughs.

That was not the case here, as all the attempts at tearjerking were eschewed for the most part for a series of escalating comic incidents which start when Harold nods off at the reins of his cart, and Hercules walks up a ramp and into a removal van. After making the journey all the way back to London from York, the poor horse is understandably exhausted, so much so that the Steptoes have to call in the vet, who tells them that Hercules has to be retired. Much to their dismay, as not only did they love their horse, but it represented part of their livelihood, although the script is not cruel enough to have the animal put down and instead has him set free to an equine retirement home.

So with Hercules out of the picture, they need a replacement and after gathering as much cash as they can, Harold goes out and buys... a greyhound. Well, he was drunk (Harold, not the greyhound), but he has faith that this dog will win them a fortune at the track, something which does not happen when Hercules the Second, as the creature is named, doesn't chase after the mechanical hare like the other dogs do and stays pretty much where it is. Yes, if the Steptoes didn't have bad luck they would have no luck at all, and even when they work out that Hecules II wouldn't move because he is shortsighted, a pair of glasses don't help (!) as the mutt likes the taste of Albert's smokes too much.

In effect, this is like three episodes of the original sitcom strung together, but it does get funnier as it goes along due to Galton and Simpson not spending too much time on the despair of the characters' situation. It ends up, through convoluted means, with Albert feigning death to cash an insurance cheque so they can both pay back a local gangster the money he has tricked them into owing him. But the wake arranged by the locals while Albert hides upstairs is pretty funny, and the farcical consequences of their actions are well mined with plenty of neat touches to ensure the laugh rate is not inconsiderable. The cast features some well kent faces, with Diana Dors appearing for one scene even though being second billed means that you might expect her to hang around for longer, and Milo O'Shea's bit is similarly brief as the as short-sighted as the dog doctor. This is one of the better sitcom movies, maybe not the best, but more likely to entertain than the first film. Music by Roy Budd and Jack Fishman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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