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  Prudence and the Pill Keep Taking The Tablets
Year: 1968
Director: Fielder Cook
Stars: David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Robert Coote, Irina Demick, Joyce Redman, Judy Geeson, Keith Michell, Edith Evans, David Dundas, Vickery Turner, Hugh Armstrong, Peter Butterworth, Moyra Fraser, Annette Kerr, Harry Towb, Jonathan Lynn, Michael Hordern
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: This is Gerald Hardcastle (David Niven) and he has found the secret of a happy marriage having been wed to the same woman for twelve years, though perhaps he's not as aware of it as he should be. His wife is Prudence (Deborah Kerr) and if they don't speak very much then they have achieved an amicable understanding: they allow one another to get on with their lives unimpeded by their spouse. However, something threw a spanner in the works when news came to Gerald of his niece Geraldine (Judy Geeson), who had been discovered by her parents in bed with her boyfriend Tony (David Dundas)...

How could she be sure she wouldn't get pregnant, for a start? In that case, it was all in the title, for as the ads proclaimed, this was the first comedy on the subject of the contraceptive pill, which might have made it topical at the time but does mean modern audiences will be wondering what the fuss the characters were making was all about. Nevertheless, this sex farce was sufficient to be considered near the boundaries of good taste in 1968, though oddly it didn't concentrate on Geraldine's issues with her conservative parents, as the pill became a small object of desire among the older generation instead.

This should have all slotted together like a jigsaw puzzle, with everything in its right place by the final credits, but there was a messy quality to the film which prevented it being as satisfying as it should have been. Couple that to a rather shrill idea of comedy and you had a work largely bereft of laughs, that in spite of the efforts of the cast, seemingly because the production thought mere mention of ladies taking the pill would be enough to have them rolling in the aisles. It wasn't, and the problems didn't stop there, because there wasn't anyone here you felt the need to spend as much time with as the movie imagined we would.

Niven was his usual elegant self, but he was fighting an uphill battle against a script which saw him compromised by double standards, conniving behaviour, and occasional temper outbursts which did not make for one of his best regarded roles. His charm carried him through, but Kerr was not quite as lucky, presented with an incredibly frosty character to portray and failing to make her even slightly sympathetic: when we find out she has been having an affair you're tempted to say to Gerald, let her get on with it, you're better off without her. Not that Gerald isn't untarnished by unfaithfulness himself.

He's been carrying on with a Frenchwoman, Elizabeth (Irina Demick), who seems like a better proposition except she falls victim to the film's insistence on making its players act irrationally and aggressively at the drop of a hat as well. With all this intolerance around them in their lives, it was difficult to get on with any of them, aside from Dame Edith Evans who played Tony's marmalade magnate aunt and guardian: she is quite happy to allow him to get his girlfriend pregnant should he so desire, and if he's not married it doesn't matter. She also gets the most exciting scene in the movie where she walks straight across a race track at Brands Hatch to see Tony in the pits with sports cars zooming past her at alarming speed, a very impressive stunt. As for those pills, they keep getting swapped for aspirin for reasons which are hard to fathom; few here act particularly sensibly, but it's all to negate the purpose of contraceptives in the first place judging by the supposedly heartwarming finale. Music by Bernard Ebbinghouse.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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