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  Rentadick Something To Offend Everyone
Year: 1972
Director: Jim Clark
Stars: James Booth, Richard Briers, Julie Ege, Ronald Fraser, Donald Sinden, Tsai Chin, Kenneth Cope, John Wells, Spike Milligan, Patricia Quinn, Richard Beckinsale, Michael Bentine, Derek Griffiths, Robert Gillespie, David Battley, Penelope Keith, Cheryl Hall
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  2 (from 1 vote)
Review: Utta Armitage (Julie Ege) is telling all to a reporter (Penelope Keith) about how she ended up where she did, so it is best she begins at the beginning when she was married to the older businessman Jeffrey Armitage (Donald Sinden). His company had devised a nerve gas which caused temporary paralysis, and its military uses would have been lucrative, never mind all the other benefits available, but Jeffrey was distracted by his home life since he thought his wife may well be playing around behind his back, though he could not prove anything. With that in mind, he hired a detective agency to gather information on her activities when he was not around, but that self same agency had also been hired by foreign spies to cover the nerve gas project...

And that's about as much sense as you can get out of Rentadick, the film that has only gone down in history thanks to how embarrassed its makers were about it. Chief among the red-faced were John Cleese and Graham Chapman, then riding high in the comedy world thanks to their participation in bizarre and groundbreaking sketch show Monty Python's Flying Circus on television, but as with many a small screen talent, their eyes were on the movies, so they jumped at the chance to pen a script for what they called Rentasleuth. By the time it had been finished it was lumbered with a title that made it sound like a male escort comedy and so different from what the writers imagined that they demanded their names be taken off the credits, thus giving John Fortune and John Wells an additional dialogue mention.

Those two were no slouches in the comedy department either, yet just as some purveyors of laughs were all at sea when it came to making the move to the big screen, so it was here in what could charitably be called a complete mess. With a new, half-imagined idea vomited up every couple of minutes and humour falling back on lazy stereotypes and an attitude to women that left the seventies as the decade accused of the lamest sexism as the permissive society allowed paradoxically more to be said and less to be admired in what it conjured up, this didn't even have the courage of its convictions, or at least that title which promised saucy fun it was singularly reluctant to provide. Scandinavian sex symbol Ege was tempted out of her clothes a couple of times, but you could see far more of her elsewhere.

As for the rest of it, the film was content to present giggle-free depictions of the Japanese and the Arabs that didn't even count as stereotypes since they were so far removed from cliché they wandered into an airless realm where you could recognise what they were supposed to be but not what the point of their being targeted was. Guest stars, and ex-Goons, Spike Milligan and Michael Bentine showed up in brownface as Arabs, the former spouting gobbledegook and the latter enjoying a harem of white women, which must be some kind of joke yet you'd be hard pressed to say why. Indeed, the running time was littered with well-known faces from the world of British comedy, all making fools of themselves but not in a manner that actually meant humour was in store.

Therefore Richard Briers had an extended bit where he gets trapped in the Armitage mansion, actually a country house the production hired and were obviously determined to get their money's worth out of considering how much of the action was shot there, and we are supposed to be rolling about in light of the sitcom favourite's thwarted attempts to escape when tedium was what was really setting in. James Booth was the ostensible star as the man on the make from the agency but is such a bully his scenes are mostly repellent as he pushes everyone else around, and Richard Beckinsale, one of the faces of seventies television comedy was "introduced" here, though fans would have already seen him in sitcom The Lovers, which was considerably more accomplished than this. The consequences of watching Rentadick would more likely be a dull headache than untrammelled mirth, and given so many performers here had distinguished themselves elsewhere, this appeared to be a clause in some contract or other designed to bring them down to earth with a bump. Music by Carl Davis, with a Dave Dee theme (!).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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