Well-acted by a familiar cast-a prison comedy that pleases.
This is not a film about drug mules,the "Pot Carriers" referred to are inmates of Her Majesty's prisons who are locked in their cells overnight without lavatory facilities and,as a consequence,have to use chamberpots and endure a humiliating process known as "Slopping Out" every morning,where they queue to dispose of the contents of their pots.This is not the only piece of prison arcana you need to know in order to get the maximum enjoyment from this film.You need to know that a "Redband" is what is known in America as a "Trusty",a job that gives the holder a degree of freedom within the prison although this freedom is often confined to one particular area,i.e.a Library redband will work in the library,a Hospital redband in the hospital etc etc.A "Flowery" is a cell(flowery dell = cell in Cockney rhyming slang).A Landing Screw is a prison Officer responsible for one floor of the prison.The Chief is the Chief prison Officer,not the chief of the prison who is the Governor.The rest you will pick up as you go along.If you've seen "Two - Way Stretch" you'll know more or less what to expect. The film stars one of the great unsung British character actors Mr Ronald Fraser as Redband.Whether Mr Fraser was cast as a villain or a Remittance Man - and it was usually one or the other - he always gave the part a depth and understanding far beyond the call of duty. To me his career defining performances came in two TV series,as Basil Allenby
Johnson in "The Misfit",an ex army officer lately returned from
foreign parts,determinedly lacking in post-colonial guilt and finding himself a stranger in his own country,and as the incomparable Apthorpe in "Men at Arms".He excelled as a decent man stymied by his inability to see what others around him would refer to as "The Bigger Picture".He makes the humanity in Redband shine through his somewhat rough exterior.Mr.Daniel Massey plays the new prisoner,Rainbow,very much out of place,a "Fish" as he would be called nowadays,and he'd have to watch it in the showers,but this was 1962 and there was no such thing as male rape.He spends a lot of time gazing at his cell wall thinking about his girl.He was very good at playing sensitive thinkers out of their milieu
try the superb "Orders to kill" to see him move up a gear. The
Governor is played by Mr Paul Rogers who I'd seen as Professor Higgins at Drury lane a year or so earlier.Like most movie prison bosses he is well-meaning but rather lame. Mr Davy Kaye the former music hall star (Ivor Moreton and Davy Kay a piano playing double act) plays a prisoner called Mouse who is quite small. With a good role for Mr Dennis Price as well,"The Pot Carriers" is a nice little film,a gently funny thing,not broad enough to be called "Carry on Convict"and not clever enough to be Ealing. The director Peter Graham-Scott had originally done "The Pot Carriers" on TV so he knew the material,and knew how to get the best out of it. There is no envelope-pushing here,the film has a comforting sort of familiarity that is enhanced by the appearance of well-known faces happily occupying the sort of roles they had been playing all their careers. I wholeheartedly recommend this forgotten little movie to any lover of small-budget unambitious but ultimately pleasing British films.
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