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  Best Pair of Legs in the Business, The Life's A Drag
Year: 1973
Director: Christopher Hodson
Stars: Reg Varney, Diana Coupland, Lee Montague, Jean Harvey, David Lincoln, George Sweeney, Clare Sutcliffe, Penny Spencer, Michael Hadley, Bill Dean, Reginald Marsh, Karen Kessey, Johnny Briggs, Geoffrey Chater, Clare Kelly, Jane Seymour, Claire Davenport
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sherry Sheridan (Reg Varney) is a comedian and compere in a holiday camp, tonight judging the Knobbly Knees Contest in front of the holidaymakers, and during the show he is knocked off the stage, landing on his back with his feet in the air which gets the biggest laugh of the evening. His wife Mary (Diana Coupland) observes this from behind the bar and retreats to the back room where the manager Charlie Green (Lee Montague) remarks Sherry will likely include that tumble in every routine now, he's that desperate. But maybe the comedian doesn't know how desperate he really is, or will soon become...

The old cliché about every clown wanting to play Hamlet never held truer than in this adaptation of a television play which had starred Reg Varney, who around this time was a megastar in Britain thanks to his leading sitcom role in On the Buses. That series was made into a short franchise of three movies, and such was their success that Varney found himself a film star for a few years in the early seventies, appearing in a small handful of vehicles (not just buses) of which The Best Pair of Legs in the Business was one. He had obviously become quite attached to the role, probably thanks to the range it allowed him to demonstrate.

So Reg got to camp it up as Sherry's stage persona, then go to the other extreme as the character's life falls apart and he grows ever more miserable, with his wife seeing another man, Charlie, and his son Alan (Michael Hadley) embarrassed by him so much that he doesn't want him to attend his upcoming wedding (to Jane Seymour the same year she was romanced by James Bond, apparently). The notion that behind the laughter was always tears was what writer Kevin Laffan (creator of long-running soap Emmerdale Farm, later abbreviated to Emmerdale) was emphasising, and the setting of a holiday camp was ideal, just rundown enough in this case to pull back the curtain and reveal the true dejection of the British holiday.

The implication being that the entertainers at the camp are no less morose than those who visit it to be entertained, which spoke to a wider, modern life is rubbish sense that everyone was living a dreadful existence and a few jokes from a man in a frock was never going to obscure the gaping abyss in their souls. Basically, living in this world is equivalent to waking up in Hell, and the less than sunny mood of the movie did not make for a particularly encouraging viewing, no matter how much we were intended to sit back and admire Varney's performance. To be fair it was clear why he wanted it captured in a movie rather than a more ephemeral TV play, because he did prove he could have played more serious parts.

Not that he was asked, and come the end of the seventies his career was winding down, not helped by health problems, although the item of trivia that everyone knows about Reg Varney would keep him satisfied, that he was the first person to use a cash machine in Britain (this makes a good double whammy of comedy act trivia with the fact Ernie Wise was the first person in the UK to make a mobile phone call). Back at the plot it's character study time as Sherry's flaws are exposed, his wife leaving him, his son disowning him, the career going down the pan, and all he has left are heavily embellished memories of meeting the Queen. In a subplot two lads try to get lucky with two terminally unimpressed girls, leading to humorous asides with trying to buy condoms from female chemists and failing, which builds up to their prejudices setting on Sherry who gets on better with the ladies in spite of (in the lads' opinion) his apparent homosexuality. But this is just his act, and if there's redemption ahead, the sight of Varney regularly stripping to his underpants is not one to relish. Music by Harry Robertson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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