480th Review: Alex Duncan book, Michael Pertwee Script, Leslie Philips & Peggy Cummins; good-hearted comedy indeed!
In the Doghouse is based on the reminiscences of Alex Duncan, who did for vets what Richard Gordon did for doctors. He wrote four books, A vet's life, which the film is based on, then Vet in Congress, Vets in the Manger, and Vets in the Belfry. This was turned into a good solid script by Michael Pertwee, brother of the very famous Jon Pertwee of Doctor Who and Worzel Gummidge fame; their father Roland Pertwee was a good screen writer in the 30s and 40s, and had over 40 films credits, mostly with smaller thrillers.
It's a typical British comedy pre-Carry On with a charming. kind-hearted performance by Leslie Philips, as a bumbling vet who eventually graduates after 10 years of trying and takes over a run-down practice. Philips here is immensely kind and upright and it actually suits him well going against type. His co-star and romantic interest is the stunningly and ever lovely Peggy Cummins. It could just have easily been Muriel Pavlow who'd had such success with the Doctor films, but I for one think Peggy is better here. As always she lights up the screen. She was a very good actress, appearing in several of the really good comedies of the 1950s such as The Love Lottery and Meet Mr Lucifer, but she's probably best known these days for her part in Hell Drivers with Sean Connery (And they're both very much still with us), but her best role is almost certainly the 1950 Deadly is the Female, aka Gun Crazy, where she plays a female bank robber.
In the Doghouse has a villain in the smarm of James Booth's ambitious and avaricious fellow graduate. Booth always played the slightly caddish role with relish and here he takes on the womanizing role that Philips would eventually make his trademark. It's also noteworthy as having Hattie Jacques in one of her first major comedic roles, an actress who was without a doubt one of the most prolific and hard-working of all British actresses. In a career that saw her start at 17 and keep going to her early loss in 1980, it is the comedy she came to be known for, and her we see a foreshadow of her greatness as Matron in the Carry On films, as the RSPCA helper to Philips. It was also Vida Hope's last film - anyone loving British comedies of this era would recognise her tiny mousy performance instantly.
All in all, this is good solid 50s style British comedy, director Darcy Conyers is no Ralph Thomas, but does a steady job. There are some hints of blue coming in with the early sixties, but no real smut; lots of animals, some farce, a ridiculous sixties vet practice with hypnotism and perm and set salon, some laugh out loud farce, and a nice romance. A good Saturday afternoon film indeed!
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