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  Bliss of Mrs Blossom, The Your Liberation Is Just Around The Corner
Year: 1968
Director: Joseph McGrath
Stars: Shirley MacLaine, Richard Attenborough, James Booth, Freddie Jones, William Rushton, Bob Monkhouse, Patricia Routledge, John Bluthal, Harry Towb, Sandra Caron, Sheila Steafel, Frank Thornton, Barry Humphries, John Cleese, Bruce Lacey, Clive Dunn
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Robert Blossom (Richard Attenborough) owns a business which is renowned around the world for its high quality brassieres, and he's very proud of that, but is he getting rather complacent? Especially in his home life? His wife Harriet (Shirley MacLaine) stays at home all day with nobody to talk to, busying herself with her hobbies such as painting and sewing, but desperately lonely all the same. Today her sewing machine breaks down so she telephones her husband to see if he can help fix it, and he sends a mechanic from the shop floor, Ambrose Tuttle (James Booth), to do just that. However, he and Harriet get to talking over a cup of tea and before they know it, he has moved in...

The Bliss of Mrs Blossom arrived just at the point in British cinema where comedy was going to grow coarser, but not so coarse that it would include actual nudity and sex - that would arrive later. So there was something coy about the implications of the relationship between Harriet and Ambrose, to the extent that you could be forgiven for thinking it was entirely chaste as any carnal delights they might have gotten up to were represented by elaborate fantasy sequences, just not sexual fantasy sequences, therefore you would be presented with Shirley MacLaine dressed as Marie Antoinette or Booth done up as a Musketeer or a knight who slays a fire-breathing dragon (actually a puppet) instead.

The fact that Mr Blossom headed a ladies' underwear company (they call him "the Orpheus of the Undie World") was about as saucy as the script would allow, penned by veterans Alec Coppel (who co-wrote Vertigo for Alfred Hitchcock, as well as the play this was based on) and Denis Norden, who was at the height of his career as an expert comedy scribe. Loosely based on a real incident, their story saw Ambrose living in the attic of the Blossoms' home which he decks out with all mod cons, both because he wants to be close to Harriet and because he needs somewhere to live. For some reason he is then sought by the police, represented by a bafflingly camp Freddie Jones and a silent William Rushton, who start hanging around questioning Harriet about his whereabouts.

Frankly, the whole film was a mess, a colourful mess but all over the place just the same in its efforts to appeal to the Swinging London set and import that out of the British capital to the rest of the world. The jokes were mild at best, but in the hope that we wouldn't notice they were placed in a selection of near-psychedelic visuals, informed by Harriet's artwork but betraying a sense of the production's unsteady handling of the era, as if they were not sure of how far they could go without resorting to silly smut. The cast were certainly qualified for humour, but seeing gameshow king Bob Monkhouse as Robert's psychiatrist sporting a Scottish accent and with sex on the brain was not exactly mirth-inducing, it was pretty much strange. Naturally, something so of its time can have an attraction all its own.

If you were mad for everything sixties, then The Bliss of Miss Blossom summed up, well, something about that decade, and could not have hailed from any other era if you judged it by the way it looked alone, from Shirley's fashionable dresses to the party where the entertainment is The New Vaudeville Band of Winchester Cathedral fame. But when the plot, such as it was, led up to the grand setpiece of Mr Blossom's charity drive to expand the bosoms of the world with a new bra using a special gas treatment to enlarge the bust, it was only a hop, skip and a jump away from a spectacularly daft finale which sees Tuttle sabotage the grand unveiling with surreal results. If you were seeking a point about female emancipation then you'd be hard pressed to find it here, as the film all but sniggered into its sleeve every time a bra was mentioned, yet on the other hand director Joseph McGrath worked up a selection of visuals which truly took advantage of the Technicolor, and in opening up the play to downright oddness, this was quite something to behold, if not great at all. Music by Riz Ortolani.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Joseph McGrath  (1930 - )

Scottish director of film and TV comedy who debuted as one of four directors on the chaotic James Bond spoof Casino Royale. The Terry Southern-penned Magic Christian was a bizarre comedy whose cast included Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, while 1973's Digby, The Biggest Dog in the World is a much-loved kids favourite. McGrath also helmed The Great McGonagall, another oddball Milligan comedy, and big screen version of Rising Damp.

 
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