The Fast Lady (1962)
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The title of the film 'The Fast Lady', refers to the name given to the vintage Bentleigh. The film is about the car, its owner, the girl he wants to date, and her father who won't let our hero take his daughter out unless he passes his driving test.
Stanley Baxter, is perfect for the role of Murdoch, the learner driver who wants to impress with his car and driving skills. Leslie Phillips, is hilarious as Murdoch's buddy who helps him with his driving and gives him romance tips. James Robertson Justice, really enjoys making life difficult for Murdoch, by insulting and challenging his driving skills. Julie Christie, is pretty and charming as Claire.
This is a fun movie to watch that will leave you in good spirits. A good movie for a rainy day or a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Hope to see it released on video soon.
For my money this falls uncomfortably between the two stools - what should be a major hit with a great cast drag awfully in places - though the comedy is not bad it's just not at its best. A little crude perhaps? All in all, great to watch if there's nothing else on a Saturday afternoon but a long way from being my favourite - and I normally love anything with James Robertson Justice in it - curmudgeon at its best.
The script can't decide whether it's New Britain 60s cool or a flashback to the 50s, but it has it moments. Stanley Baxter is the Scottish Norman Wisdom and if that's your cup of tea you'll love it.
Troon tracks him down through his licence plate number, and turns up at the Chingford home demanding compensation. It is here that he meets and falls for Chingford's lovely daughter Claire ( Julie Christie ). She in turn is attracted to him, nicknaming him 'Wee Willie Walked'.
Desperate to impress her enough to get her to go on a date, Murdoch decides to learn how to drive. His friend and fellow boarder, car salesman Freddy Fox ( Leslie Phillips ) helps him out, but is concealing an ulterior motive. Not having sold a motor car lately, Fox is told by his boss ( Dick Emery ) that he may be sacked unless things change. Fox persuades Murdoch to buy a vintage green Bentley called 'The Fast Lady'. Then his troubles really begin...
This was the second of four 1960's British comedy films featuring Stanley Baxter, James Robertson Justice, and Leslie Phillips. The others were 'Very Important Person' ( 1961 ), 'Crooks Anonymous' ( 1962 ) and 'Father Came Too' ( 1963 ). With the exception of the latter, all were directed by Ken Annakin, who later made 'Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines'.
Baxter plays a naive young man, as he would later do in 'Father Came Too'. He was very good at playing these characters, but is best remembered for those superb L.W.T. shows in which he played dozens. Robertson Justice's 'Charles Chingford' is virtually identical to 'Sir Lancelot Spratt' from the 'Doctor' films. Leslie Phillips is, of course, the debonair lounge-lizard we all know and love. He does not say 'ding dong!' here, but you expect him too.
Julie Christie was a mere three years away from winning a Best Actress Oscar for her performance as model 'Diana Scott' in 'Darling' ( 1965 ). Even here you could tell that she was not just another pretty face. Her scenes with Baxter are charming.
Plenty of car stunts to be found in this film. These sequences were directed by Don Sharp, who later directed the flying scenes for 'Those Magnificent Men'. 'The Fast Lady' itself looks like John Steed's car from 'The Avengers' television series. Maybe it was. The producer - Julian Wintle - was responsible for both.
And what a supporting cast! Eric Barker, Deryck Guyler, Dick Emery, Kathleen Harrison, Allan Cuthbertson, Ann Beach, with cameos from Frankie Howerd, Bernard Cribbins, Fred Emney, and Clive Dunn. Motor racing legend Graham Hill is in one of Troon's day-dreams.
The script was by Jack Davies and Henry Blyth, the writing team behind several Norman Wisdom comedies.
Funniest moment - Troon learning to drive 'The Fast Lady'. Just before he reverses into a disused aircraft hangar, Freddy calls out: "Pretend you are reversing into your own garage!". Murdoch winds up smashing through the back wall. "Just as well you haven't got a garage!", says Freddy, sadly.
Perfect Sunday afternoon entertainment.
The film is a bit patchy (the daydream near the start is a bit overdone) but overall it's a real cracker of a film, you definitely come away from it with a big smile on your face. It's also a real 'spot the actor' film.
Personally I love seeing all the bygone street scenery (the black and white striped signposts, the North Thames Gas Board shop with all the old fridges in the window, etc) and the great old British cars. I now live in the States and seeing this film makes me pine for the Old Country a bit!
The film's now out on DVD, well worth another look.
The film is a mixture of romantic comedy and slapstick comedy and works better as the latter than as the former. The problem lies with the personality of Murdoch as played by Stanley Baxter (a popular comedian in Britain at this period). Baxter, himself a Scot, seems to be playing up to the common English stereotype of the Scotsman as dour, truculent and with a permanent chip on his shoulder. (Although Murdoch has chosen to live in England, he is forever complaining about the English). As a result, he comes across as too unsympathetic to be a very credible romantic hero; I wondered just what Claire saw in him and found it all too easy to understand why Commander Chingford disliked him so much.
On the other hand, Baxter's personality seemed just right for the slapstick elements in the film, chiefly the driving sequences, as these are all based around the idea that Murdoch, despite (or possibly because of) his inexperience becomes an aggressive maniac whenever he gets behind the wheel of a car. His lessons, his excursions with Chingford (an experienced driver) and his driving test all prove disastrous, and I must admit that these parts of the film were quite amusing.
There are good supporting performances from James Robertson Justice as Chingford and Leslie Phillips as Murdoch's friend Freddie Fox, a used car salesman. (It is Fox who sells him The Fast Lady). These two actors mostly appeared in comedy with a fairly limited range; Justice specialised in playing imperious, portly, middle-aged members of the English upper or upper-middle classes. (He is perhaps best remembered as the surgeon Sir Lancelot Spratt in the "Doctor" comedies). Phillips, although he was not particularly handsome, specialised in playing smoothly lecherous seducers, often dressed in blazer and slacks and affecting a pseudo-posh accent. Both men are cast very much according to type here; Chingford is a typical Justice character, and Fox, generally dressed in blazer and slacks, appears with a different girl on his arm in virtually every scene. The lovely Julie Christie does not have a lot to do, but then she is a sort of human McGuffin, the reason why Murdoch is putting himself through so many trials and tribulations rather than a character in her own right. (This was only Christie's second film; her first "Crooks Anonymous" was also directed by Ken Annakin and also starred Baxter, Justice and Phillips).
One thing which does not ring true is that Murdoch is living in "digs" with a landlady and yet is able to buy The Fast Lady in cash for £500, several months' wages for the average earner in 1962, without needing to take out a loan or obtain hire-purchase terms. Anyone with that amount of ready cash at this period would have been able to rent a decent flat or put a deposit down on a house.
The film appears to have been a box-office success when first released, but today it looks rather dated. For some, of course, this will be part of its charm as it offers us a nostalgic look at the Britain of more than fifty years ago. To the modern viewer the other cars featured here, such as an Austin A40, look even more old-fashioned than The Fast Lady (only 35 years old at the time) would have done in 1962. The film's main weakness is its inability to combine its romantic and comic elements into a unified whole, but I suspect that the "Top Gear"-watching classes will love it in spite of this. 6/10