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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
User 'Cosmo-Bongo' and his wife must have led very sheltered lives if
they found this film 'horribly upsetting'. For millions of British
working class people at that time, this was their way of life;
cobblestones, tin baths, outside toilets, and all. If I were you, sir,
I'd stay well clear of 'A Clockwork Orange'. It'll most likely give you
The boom in films-based-on-British-sitcoms started in 1969 with 'Till Death Us Do Part and ended in 1980 with 'George & Mildred'. In between there was 'Dad's Army', 'On The Buses' ( three films in fact ), 'Man About The House', 'Please Sir!', and 'For The Love Of Ada' to name but a few. 'Steptoe & Son', while not a patch on the television series, is nevertheless an above average movie. Harold and Albert go to a stag night at the local rugby club, where the former is smitten by the vivacious stripper Zita ( Carolyn Seymour ). So smitten, in fact, that he proposes to and marries her. Of course the 'dirty old man' does not like this one little bit. When the couple go to Spain on honeymoon, he goes along with them, but gets food poisoning, and demands to go home. Harold is forced to leave his bride behind, where she is easy prey for the randy hotel manager...
Being a film this is of course ruder than the series. Harold uses bad language, there's nudity ( even Albert gets to display his bare bottom ), and lots of frank talk about sex. The conflict between the Steptoes escalates into full-scale war.
Carolyn Seymour is terrific. No wonder she was later asked to strip in workingmen's clubs for real! Also in the cast are Mike Reid ( who went on to become a star through 'The Comedians' television series ) and Perry St.Clare ( an alias for female impersonator Patrick Fyffe, later to become 'Dame Hilda Bracket' ). The film is a bit like 'The Bargee' ( also by Galton & Simpson, and starring Corbett ) in that it too moves from comedy to tragedy and back again. Corbett and Brambell are on sparkling form, particularly when they debate the future of the strange baby they've found in their stable. Only the scene near the end where Harold is beaten up by drunken Old Wendovians doesn't work.
Favourite bit? The old man bathing in the kitchen sink. You don't want to know where he puts the dish brush. Standing up, he accidentally exposes himself to a neighbour ( Patsy Smart ).
The film did well enough for a superior sequel two years later, entitled 'Steptoe & Son Ride Again'.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the TV series, Steptoe and Son always played with the audiences empathy. Old man Steptoe was a horrible man, but this was redeemed by the ludicrousness of his acts. Harold was naive and pretentious but because he was a rag and bone man nobody took him seriously. In this film someone does take Harold seriously and Steptoe is generally just horrible. The actors play their roles with their usual gusto, but the underlying love between Steptoe & his son that sustained the TV series is replaced here by something far less wholesome and more akin to psychological and emotional abuse. Cliff Owen (Director) had either never seen the series, or in this instance was incapable of capturing the subtlety and nuance that great comedy depends upon. Every gag is wrung dry and instead of pathos you get squalor. The TV series is and will remain a great example of British comedy, this film is not.
It was something of a trend in the 70s to make film versions of popular
sit-coms of the day. With one or two exceptions these were cheaply
made, second-rate efforts intended to cash in on the success of a
popular TV show and were therefore largely embarrassing to watch. The
first Steptoe and Son movie does, however, work fairly well.
The grit and seediness of the Steptoe's environment transfers very well to film and we get a valuable glimpse of a part of London which was grey, dilapidated and depressing...something we are never privy to in the TV series. With film censorship being slightly more relaxed than what could be seen or heard on television we get some hilarious outbursts from Harold and Albert, liberally peppered with swear words.
Of course the TV version of Steptoe is a sit-com and while this is funny in places the genuine tragedy of Harold and Albert's situation takes centre stage. Harold ends up getting hitched to a stripper but the match is doomed from the start due to his mixed feelings: all he wants to do is get away from his father and make something of himself yet abandoning him is the one thing he cannot do. We really do sympathise with Harold's plight in this movie and despise Albert's deviousness and thwarting him at every turn.
Of course, such sombre elements existed in the TV programme but due to them being mixed with relatively rapid comedy in 25 minute slots we accepted the character's situation without dwelling on it too much. This time round, with a longer running time and the tragi-drama fleshed out it sometimes makes for uncomfortable viewing.
All the leads perform well and this is a better example of how TV sit-coms could work as cinema spectaculars. Indeed, even if the characters weren't known from TV this has the potential to function well as a stand-alone movie.
See it and be pleasantly surprised.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Harold meets the beautiful Zita, a stripper. Albert is landed for his
son, until he announces that the pair plan to marry. Albert does
everything he can to sabotage the relationship, even joining the pair
on their honeymoon.
I am stunned by so many of the negative reviews on this movie, for me the two Steptoe movies are the most successful films inspired by TV sitcoms.
They kept our two lead characters completely in character, they didn't send the show up in the way that Rising Damp and Are You being served both did.
It's a great mix of tragedy and comedy, for me comedy always works better when it's tinged with a bit of sadness and realism, it's why I've always been such a fan of One Foot in the Grave. The spite between the pair that we love throughout the TV series is brilliantly realised here, Harold desperate to escape, Albert desperate to keep hold of his son for his own reasons.
Corbett and Bramble add their usual brilliance to their parts, Carolyn Seymour is just fabulous, so believable in her role, I firmly believe in that scene where he sees her and instantly falls in love with her.
It's a great movie. 9/10
This captures the heart and soul of the TV show.The two leads are so realistic that you could not really see them as anything other than a classic double act.a neat story even if the ending is predictable.but its stays true to character.some good genuine laughs.though you do feel for the younger Steptoe.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The seventies marked the beginning of a long, slow decline for the
British film industry, a sorry state of affairs that continues to this
day. The once-proud Hammer studios, which had once flooded both the
domestic and overseas markets with a steady supply of richly
atmospheric horror films, had unwisely branched out into cheapskate
big-screen spin-offs of previously popular sitcoms. The mighty Rank
studios merged with Xerox, a company better known for making
photocopiers, and the legendary EMI shortly followed suit, merging with
Thorn, a company that manufactured light bulbs and fire extinguishers.
Curiously enough, this sudden and irreversible decline in the fortunes
of the heavy hitters paved the way for a short-lived golden age of
British exploitation cinema, with the likes of Pete Walker and Norman
J. Warren pushing the envelope in terms of gory violence and soft core
sex as far as they dare under the baleful gaze of the censor, and fly-
by-night operators churning out endless variations on the tried-and-
tested Carry On formula with the added attractions of simulated sex,
full-frontal nudity and scores of familiar faces from the television
looking mightily embarrassed in cameo roles.
Which brings us to the first of two big-screen outings for England's favourite rag and bone men, the inimitable Albert Steptoe and his long- suffering son Harold. Steptoe and Son first made their mark at the BBC back in 1962 in a one-off Comedy Playhouse instalment called the Offer; the episode made such an impact that the BBC commissioned a full series shortly thereafter. Between 1962 and 1965, there were four series of Steptoe and Son before the series' creators, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, decided they'd exhausted its possibilities and moved on to pastures new. However, the characters of Harold and Albert were too good to be left to the tender mercies of the public's brief attention span, so a further four series were commissioned between 1970 and 1974, this time in glorious colour (though, true to form, only about half of the colour episodes actually exist in this format; the rest were wiped and the only copies left in the BBC archives are off-air black and white video recordings). The first Steptoe and Son film premiered in the same year as the seventh television series, regarded by many fans as the high watermark of the entire run, thanks to memorable episodes like 'Men of Letters', 'Divided we Stand', 'Oh What a Beautiful Mourning' and 'the Desperate Hours', so expectations for the feature were understandably high.
Unfortunately, what cinema audiences got was a crude, half-hearted piece of work, long on bathos but painfully short on comedy, with a more-than-usually neutered and psychologically crippled Harold, a far less sympathetic Albert and a non-starter of a central plot in which Harold marries a stripper named Zita. As you might expect, the first half-hour or so of the film doesn't stray too far from the series' origins, and it also contains many of the film's stingy quota of highlights - most notoriously, Albert taking a bath in the kitchen sink. The scenes in the football team's social club offer a convincingly seedy glimpse of a long vanished world, and the scene where Harold and Zita meet for the first time is nicely played and actually rather touching.
After this, though, repetition and coarseness begin to set in, and the screenplay contains more padding than a cheap settee - the endlessly delayed wedding and the doomed honeymoon in Spain (something of a missed opportunity, since effectively all that happens is that Albert succumbs to food poisoning, ruins his son's wedding and has to be returned home - whereupon he naturally makes a speedy recovery) find the supply of laughs slowly drying up, and by the time the film reaches the halfway mark all but the staunchest Steptoe fans will be feeling bewildered and cheated by the sudden gearshift into unsubtle maudlin sentimentality from which the film never really recovers. Some scenes feel more like a precursor to the reliably depressing EastEnders than a lighthearted (if gritty) situation comedy.
Technically, the film is pretty shoddy also, with poorly recorded sound, some shocking dubbing - particularly during Mike Reid's stand-up routine, where the audience laughter seems to be coming from a different room entirely - and some very iffy continuity to contend with. Cliff Owen's direction is functional at best, though as other critics have noted, the scene in which Harold is beaten up in a rugby club has a horribly botched, half-finished feel to it, hardly helped by the sad fact that such an incident was horribly misjudged in the first place - genuine violence or malice seldom made it into the Steptoe world on television. Luckily, Galton and Simpson were offered a second chance at transferring their iconic characters to the cinema with 1973's Steptoe and Son Ride Again, a far superior film which manages to keep the laughs coming throughout and feels more faithful to the series as a result.
The 1970s was the decade of big screen adaptations for popular British
TV series and STEPTOE AND SON is the first of two such workings for the
ever-popular show (STEPTOE AND SON RIDE AGAIN would be released the
following year). Fans of the series are likely to enjoy it as it sees
the return of Harry H. Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell to their most
famous roles, and the old camaraderie is back once more as if they'd
never been away.
However, this is a film that feels very different to the good-natured and light-hearted TV show. There's a cold, almost ruthless streak of pessimism in the production that makes this feel more like a tragedy than a comedy. In some ways it feels like an episode drawn out to feature length and the single-strand plot makes some elements of the production feel drawn out and repetitive.
In essence the tale is about Corbett falling for a stripper and deciding to marry her, only for the needy Brambell to get in the way. Carolyn Seymour successfully portrays the awkwardness felt at coming between this pairing. There's little more to it than that, but at times this film feels like a depiction of psychological and emotional torture, with Brambell turning the thumb screws at every opportunity. It's testament to the skill of the two stars that this remains a likable comedy despite the darkness of the script. Inevitably, the grimy surroundings are better realised than ever on film as opposed to television, and the envelope is pushed further than ever with nudity and bad language in the mix.
Steptoe and Son was massively popular in the UK, and sure enough in
keeping with a trend that continued throughout the 1970s, it was a show
that was guaranteed to have a movie spin off. In fact it got two! Such
was its popularity.
This first feature length film has the basic traits of the show, the tragi-comedy aspects of a son (Harry H. Corbett) forever destined to be held back by his lecherous and unclean father (Wilfrid Brambell) are fully born out. All set to the very basic working class backdrop of a Rag & Bone family business.
Enter a stripper, excuse me, exotic dancer (Carolyn Seymour), who bizarrely marries Corbett and cues up a number of scenes where old man Steptoe single handedly manages to destroy the marriage on the honeymoon.
It's not the coarseness of the screenplay that hurts the movie, or some of the dialogue that has the PC brigade spitting feathers, it's that in spite of sound performances and some well written sequences (Galton & Simpson), it's just too bleak for its own good!
The gags quickly dry up entering the second half of the picture, which leaves us with only our good will to stay with characters that we have a mild interest in anyway. For hard core fans of the show, it's easy to go with the flow, but there's nothing here to remotely entice the outsider to venture further into the hygienically challenge world of Steptoe & Son. 6/10
Steptoe and Son (1972) was a feature length movie featuring the two
leads of the popular English television series. The plot deals with
Harold falling for a "scrubber". Albert in his cruel and crude ways can
see the marriage will never work, can Harold and his new bride work
things out or will his mean old man ruin his plans for a happy family
The first film is a lot like the television series, a mixture of melodrama and comedy. A tad uneven in some places but it's very enjoyable. The second film is more of a farcical comedy and it's more accessible to non-fans of this brilliant television series.
Highly recommended for fans of the t.v. series and for people who want to take a peek at the original "Sanford and Son".
This is a master piece of British t.v cinema. I have all the steptoe and son episode's on DVD. Their home and its contents have been a part of the shows make-up, (THEY ARE RAG AND BONE MEN) and there home trys to reflect that fact. Thats one of the reasons harold keeps trying to get away, he is only to aware of his messy surroundings. (dust? more like bleedin top soil) The film is just a re-working of an episode they did called 'STEPTOE AND SON AND SON' I have to concead that this is not as good as the series it still has all the humor you come to expect. BUt if you haven't seen the series then you may not get the all the humor, and if you like the film then you WILL love the series. purely British sit-com.
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