Gerald Thomas (director)
Network on Air (studio)
89 min (length)
06 September 2021 (released)
05 September 2021
It was somehow inevitable that there would be a movie version of this then immensely long running popular TV Series and in this 1972 screen adaptation we once again see the much loved Sid James as relatively successful sales manager Sid Abbott who likes nothing better than an easy life in suburbia but finds his world constantly turned upside down thanks to his family and quarrelsome neighbour Mr. Baines.
All is comparatively well at the Abbott household (at least on the surface), most of which is seen from Sid's point of view. That said, the cracks soon get deeper thanks to Sid’s loving wife Jean (Diana Coupland) who wants to set up an antiques stall with close friend Betty Lewis (Patsy Rowlands) – an idea that the patriarch initially isn’t all that keen on. Then there’s work-shy young son Mike (Robin ‘Confessions of…’ Askwith) who is an art student in his final year and environmentally conscious daughter Sally (Sally Geeson) whose political stance (her teacher’s influence) could easily have been an early influence for Greta Thunberg. None of them are that bright and all a bit accident-prone (as the lead characters in most domestic comedies were in those days).
However things are going to change (not a great deal really) when previous neighbours, the Hobbs, move out and the new next-door neighbours, the Baines, arrive. The arrogant Ronald Baines is played by none other than Terry Scott (yet another TV sitcom king) while sitcom fave June Whitfield plays his long-suffering wife Vera. But! Would you believe it they have a young attractive daughter called Kate (Carol Hawkins) and you don't need to be Einstein or Stephen Fry to work out what will happen next… Yes, both she and Mike Abbot meet and fall in love when they both get summer jobs in Mr. Wilson’s (George A. Cooper) greasy spoon café. Of course their parents aren’t to know, what with Dad Baines holding a grudge against ‘lazy layabout’ Mike in particular while Sally Abbott is on the warpath with Mr. Baines over his habit of burning junk in the garden, thus polluting the environment with smoke. In fact, Mr. Abbott and Mr. Baines don’t see eye to eye either.
Then top comedy writer Dave Freeman's script has clichés abutting here, there and everywhere. For example, Mike isn't very good at it his job at the greasy spoon café - cue for some totally predictable laughs and a screwball scenario when his and Kate’s parents unexpectedly turn up. This coupling must succeed in improving relations between The Abbotts and The Baines but all they succeed in is a mighty custard pie fight! Highlights? Hmm, well there's Sid’s illegal home-brewing distillery in his garden shed and along with best mate Trevor Lewis ('Carry On' fave Peter Butterworth) the pair try – unsuccessfully of course – brewing rhubarb wine in order to create brandy. Do we need to point out that the home brewing apparatus blows up just moments before Mike and Kate's.... but let's not give too much away.
Nevertheless for a certain kind of Brit comedy buff you have a fair bit of old style domestic humour on offer, featuring the top comedy people of the time as well as guests like Ed Devereaux (best known for 'Skippy the Bush Kangaroo’), Bill Maynard, Wendy Richard and the most prolific of all British film actors: Marianne Stone - for once in a larger role as a canny antiques dealer Muriel making her mark. This has a markedly different feel to the TV-series as the production team responsible were none other than the 'Carry On' people. And on the plus side of course you can witness the near genius of Sid James (taken far too early from us) - one of the few actors who could effortlessly succeed at being deadly serious AND be as equally convincing as a comedy actor.
BLESS THIS HOUSE is released newly remastered on Blu-ray and DVD with the following Special Features: Theatrical trailer, Image gallery, Limited edition booklet.