Sidney Stratton, a humble inventor, develops a fabric which never gets dirty or wears out. This would seem to be a boon for mankind, but the established garment manufacturers don't see it that way; they try to suppress it. Written by
John Oswalt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
One of the things that makes this Ealing comedy so outrageously funny is the clever editing. Shots that would be considered absolutely essential to most modern comedies are deliberately left out. (This is what was known as British understatement.)
Three instances: A comic fight is edited like this. Alec Guiness has invented a new cloth that will ruin the industry. Half a dozen businessmen invite him to their office to try to get him to sign a contract relinquishing his control of the cloth so that production can be suppressed. When he catches on to this, Guiness stands up and turns to walk to the door. Two men block his way. "Excuse me," he says quietly, taking a step forward. The two men move between Guiness and the camera. Cut. A secretary is sitting outside at her desk. There is silence until the buzzer begins signaling her frantically. She takes up her notebook and opens the door to the inner office where a full-fledged noisy Donnybrook is in progress and the room is half wrecked. Guiness dashes out the open door.
The following example would be unthinkable today. During the research phase of his invention Guiness sets up an elaborate chemical apparatus but instead of converting the experimental liquid into the new cloth, the device explodes. Again and again it explodes. The laboratory is cleared of all other work. The blasts continue. Ceilings fall down. Windows are blown out. The director of research is seated at his desk in a tiny office cluttered with debris, a bandage on his head. When the door behind him opens he jumps a foot in the air. "Sit down," he tells his visitor, "there's another one due at any moment." It is excruciatingly amusing -- and there is not a single shot of any explosions. This would be unimaginable now without a fireball, and maybe a building collapsing in slow motion.
Last example, consisting of a series of quick, relentless cuts, put together precisely. Guiness is being pursued and is cornered in the lobby of an office building by people who want him to sign the contract. Faced with two men about to grapple with him, Guiness backs up with a determined expression. He bumps against a pedestal with an iron bust on it. The bust topples backward and bumps against the wall. There is a shot lasting about one second of the bust hitting the wall. Another brief shot of a metal shield hung above the bust being jarred loose and falling down. Quick cut to Guiness's head rising into the frame. Cut to the two men staring into the camera while horrible brass banging and thudding sounds are heard off screen. Cut to Guiness flat on his back. Nobody today would have the cojones to NOT show Guiness being crowned by that shield.
I won't go on with this. It's a comedy alright but a pretty bitter one underneath all the hilarity. In solving one set of problems, Guiness has created dozens of others. He is opposed both by management and labor, neither of which is shown to much advantage. And of course the economic implications have to do with more than cloth. "What about that car that runs on water with a pinch of something or other in it?" one of the workers asks. "Vested interests," comments another worker, as Thorstein Veblen nods in his grave. What WOULD happen if our problems with energy were solved overnight? If I owned shares of Exxon -- and I think I do -- I'd shudder at the thought. Where would the oil industry be if there were no more need for oil? For that matter, where would the police force and the FBI be if crime were to suddenly disappear? This is a thoughtful and very amusing movie, superbly directed and edited. The roster of performers is peerless. Joanne Greenwood with that husky voice. The blithering Cecil Parker. The wheezing mummified Ernest Thesiger.
A first-rate job all around.
9 of 11 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?