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Harris, J, and George decide to take a holiday boating up the Thames to Oxford. Battling against Hampton Court maze, tents, rain, locks, and Henley Regatta the accident-prone threesome have one success anyway - they meet Sophie, Primrose and Bluebell. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
It was when I saw a 2006 documentary about three friends taking a boat trip on the Thames River to emulate Jerome K. Jerome's story of Three Men in a Boat, that I realized I'd never seen this movie. I recalled hearing about it from my youth but simply never had the opportunity until recently when I got a DVD from my library.
Now, I've not read the actual book but, I understand from other reviews I've read elsewhere, the film narrative bears little relationship to the story that Jerome penned one reviewer even going so far to say that the author would be turning in his grave. No doubt stories from other authors have fared the same or worse.
So, if you have read the story then you may be disappointed. However, as an example of well-produced British humour from the 1950s, it stands the test of time as a light-hearted, albeit cliché-ridden, romp with Jimmy Edwards as Harris, Laurence Harvey as George and the very dapper David Tomlinson as J the surrogate Jerome. For the love interest encountered along the way, the three men meet up with Shirley Eaton as Sophie, Lisa Gastoni as Primose and Jill Ireland as Bluebell.
The story is filmed, essentially, as a series of set pieces, beginning with the Preparations to Take a Trip during which the three are shown for the bumbling idiots they are with a hilarious, but predictable, catastrophic attempts to package up all their supplies, all ending in shambles at the bottom of stairs, with a similar situation as they load it onto the boat, almost capsizing.
However, off they row, and their first port of call is Hampden Court where they decide to experience the Largest Maze in Europe (or so we're told) and, naturally, they get confused and confuse everyone else in the maze with their efforts to lead them out which, naturally, leads to more slapstick humour.
Later that evening, there is Making Camp for the Night, which, being England, is wet, very wet and an occasion for more misery for the trio, and much hilarity for the viewer as they go through all of the mistakes that many people make when erecting tents, building fires, and so forth. During the course of that day, however, they meet up with the three young women and begin the flirtations.
The next day could be captioned the Photo Op whereby, coming upon a large boating fraternity all waiting to get through a lock, and with a local photographer on hand, our intrepid three make further advances towards the women but simply end up on their bums, legs in the air, and their boat in danger of being swamped. Only the quick action of Bluebell saves them by using a boat hook to prevent disaster, thereby enhancing the budding relationships. The three men, however, are caught on camera, much to their chagrin.
In succession, then, there is the Evening Dance, followed by the funniest attempts I've seen to Open a Can of Pineapple at their camp and which has almost the same level of madcap humour as that greatest of all when Basil Fawlty (John Cleese of TV's Fawlty Towers) beats up his Austin car, with a tree branch, for refusing to start. If you've seen that, you know what I mean. Now I wonder if Cleese was influenced by the can of pineapple that wouldn't open?
The next morning, they Take a Dip in the river but skinny-dipping. All goes well, sort of, until a group of women and children decide to have a picnic nearby. Ah, watch how they finally get back on board their boat while retaining modesty. Priceless...
After that, the three manage to Ruin a Racing Eights Race when they cross the river in their boat to reach the women on the other bank; numerous eights are left in shambles with entangled oars, the three blissfully unaware of their transgression. And, the film ends with the old standby: The Cricket Match (only in England, of course) where the three reduce that to chaos, totally, with the help of J's pet dog. I nearly fell off my chair.
Sure, it's a total farce, but that's what the Brits are good at well, in those times, anyway. The acting is top-notch, as you would expect, although I think Laurence Harvey, to be kind, was more suited to dark dramas like Room at the Top (1959), A walk on the wild side (1962), A dandy in aspic (1968) and so on. Comedy seemed a bit of a strain for him. Not so Tomlinson and Edwards, of course.
The script is very funny also, alive with cracking good one-liners, double entendre and heavy irony. The Eastman colour is vibrant, to put it mildly, but it does enhance the scenery and the idyllic settings. The women act well, although they don't share the same amount of screen time as the men. Jill Ireland, of course, went on to appear in Robbery Under Arms (1957) and met her future husband, Charles Bronson, in the process. The film was directed by Ken Annakin, who went on to direct Nor the Moon by Night (1958), Third man on the mountain (1959), co-director on The Longest Day (1962), and followed that by directing The Battle of the Bulge (1965) and others.
Three Men is suitable for all ages, and good for family viewing. Recommended for those who like English humour of the fifties and sixties.
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