|Index||5 reviews in total|
The second of the "Adventures" series, this one features Chris Neil as
an assistant to a P.I. who tries to crack a case when his boss is on
vacation. The whole ordeal is done in a slow, boring, unfunny, contrived
sort of way.
However, the film perks up when Adrienne Posta comes in. Posta delivers a superb impersonation of Oscar-winning actress Liza Minelli (named Lisa Moroni here) who gives him shelter when the bad guys attempt to eliminate him when he's starting to get a bead on solving the case. Posta portrays Minelli from her role in Bob Fosse's "Cabaret" and looks and sounds like her as well. It's a darkhorse candidate in my book for the best mimic job in the history of cinema. Otherwise, there's not much here to like.
Adventures of a Private Eye introduces us to a number of dense, almost
unsolvable mysteries: has Britain ever produced a worse director than
Stanley A. Long? why does Long not know, despite spending over 15 years
in the film business prior to making this film, how to pace a sequence
or end one on a proper punchline? why does he hire enormously talented
actors like Harry H. Corbett, Irene Handl, Diana Dors, Jon Pertwee,
Anna Quayle and Julien Orchard and give them absolutely nothing to do?
why did 70s English audiences flock to see absolute rubbish like this
in their droves? It can't be the sex, as compared to the likes of the
then-contemporary Swedish and French cinema, there's hardly any flesh
on display here, and none of it is even remotely erotic; nor can it be
the comedy, which is a lot of things (incompetent, mean spirited,
offensive, banal, ignorant, half-hearted, old hat) but not even
remotely funny; it can't be the story, which makes British comedy
capers of the period which were less successful at the Box Office
(House in Nightmare Park for example) look like Chinatown.
To be fair, Private Dick is a smidgeon better than the first entry into the series, purely because it actually has some kind of story as opposed to being a merely string of idiot vignettes. And the film does look good, especially on the new Region 2 Dvds, where the gorgeous lighting of the interiors and night time scenes is genuinely impressive (catch the shot of photographer Scott walking towards the mansion after dark, the screen awash with breathtaking colours). And Adrienne Posta does a mean Liza Minelli impression, supported would you believe by the boy from the Tomorrow People playing a Bugsy Malone-type Italian gangster, all school play amateurism and elbows.
"Bloody amateurs" is a phrase a police inspector in the film uses about private eyes, and it's apt given the star of the movie can't act: Christopher Neil is a nullity into oblivion as the title character, taking over from Barry Evans (who instead chose to appear in the flop sex comedy Under the Doctor). Yet another document on the sexual, spiritual and social dereliction of the UK in the 1970s. It does bear the distinction of having a cameo by Shaw Taylor, tipping the wink to TV's then current Police 5, which just goes to show how narrowly culturally specific an audience of TV morons the producer was aiming at with this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
During the permissive seventies there was a marked relaxation of
censorship in the British cinema, and films which would have been taboo
during even the supposedly swinging sixties suddenly became acceptable
for public viewing. One result of this increase in permissiveness was
that mildly suggestive smutty comedies like the "Carry On" series, with
their "seaside postcard" style of humour, suddenly went out of favour
and were replaced by more explicit sex comedies like the "Confessions"
and "Adventures" series.
"Adventures of a Private Eye" is a fairly typical example of this new breed. There is not a great deal to say about the plot; it revolves around the efforts of Bob West, a hapless young private investigator, to find out who has been blackmailing his client Laura Sutton, the young widow of an elderly millionaire. (The answer, in case anyone's interested, is that Laura appears to have been blackmailing herself. No, I couldn't work that one out either). Most of the film, however, is taken up with scenes in which Bob has to fight off, generally unsuccessfully, the sexual advances of various women. (Most of these women, as one might expect from a seventies sex comedy, are lonely, frustrated housewives. When Bob isn't in bed with them he is leaping out the window to avoid being discovered by their husbands).
The film features a surprising number of well-known actors including Diana Dors, Harry H Corbett and former Doctor Who Jon Pertwee. They must have been desperately short of money, as I can't think of anything else which might have induced them to appear in a production as dire as this one. Dors, admittedly, was none too fussy in the latter part of her career about the sort of films she appeared in- indeed, she seemed to make unfunny sex comedies her stock-in-trade. A sad decline for someone who was once a beautiful and gifted young actress. Corbett is today best remembered for his part in the highly successful sit-com "Steptoe and Son", but its very success was a mixed blessing for Corbett who forever afterwards was so closely associated with comedy in the public mind that found it difficult to secure parts in the sort of serious dramas he preferred. As for Pertwee, he seems to have fallen victim of a "curse of Doctor Who"; few of the classic Doctors, with the exception of Peter Davison, are much remembered for anything they did after leaving the show.
One could not, however, call the leading man Christopher Neil a well- known actor; I had never heard of him before. Apparently Barry Evans of "Mind Your Language" fame (or should that be infamy?) was originally slated to play Bob, but when he had to pull out Neil took his place. I can only think that he was cast on the basis of his physical resemblance to Evans, which is considerable, rather than on the basis of his charisma or his talents, which are virtually non-existent. Evans himself was never a great actor, but at least he would have been better than this. Neil was only to make one more film after this, another one of the "Adventures" series, and I can't say I'm surprised.
I refer to Adventures of a Private Eye" as a "sex comedy", which is how films of this type were generally known at the time, but in fact they were not particularly erotic even when compared to fairly softcore offerings like the "Emmanuelle" franchise. As for comedy, well most of them were not particularly comic either. A "comedy", after all, is supposedly a film marked by wit and humour, and these are characteristics in which most so-called "sex comedies", this one included, are singularly lacking. The only people likely to find it funny are those who find the idea of a man being seduced by an endless succession of frustrated housewives to be a capital joke in its own right. There may have been a few cinema-goers of this type about in the seventies, but today they will be a lot thinner on the ground. Even in 1977 the film's main selling-point was probably not its attempts at humour but the prospect of a few brief glimpses of nudity. Today, when nudity has become commonplace even in mainstream movies, it would seem to have no selling-points at all. Why the obscure cable TV network London Live thought it was worth broadcasting recently is beyond me. It only avoids the minimum 1/10 mark because I generally reserve that for films that are so bad they're funny. This one is so bad it's unfunny. 2/10.
For those who won't have been around at the time that this film was released they will look at the cast and wonder.There is Jon Letters,Dr Who,Harry H.,Corbett,Steptoe,Ian Lavender,Private Pike.Additionally Diana Ford,Irene Handel and Fred Emney.The reason for their participation in this film is that other than spin offs and a few American financed films this is the only type of film that was being made.So the actors were prepared to take What they could get.Now you can have some funny sex films but this wasn't one of them.It is unfunny and truly dreadful.It took the British film industry many years to get out of the doldrums.
I thought that, by working backwards through the 'Adventures of
films, I might see a slight rise in quality with each one I watch,
ending with the best, but that is most definitely not the case: in
fact, Adventures of a Private Eye, the middle film in the 'trilogy', is
so diabolical that it's a wonder they ever made a third film.
The action starts in expected low-rent Confessions knock-off style, with private eye assistant Bob West (Christopher Neil) unable to resist taking over the role of detective while his womanising boss (Jon Pertwee) is out of the office for a few days. Agreeing to help sexy Laura Sutton (Suzy Kendall), who is being blackmailed for £50k, he takes off for the countryside to see which of the other potential heirs to Laura's late husband's fortune could be the the extortionist. As the silly plot progresses, the film turns into a very tired murder/mystery farce, albeit one with plenty of gratuitous nudity and soft-core sex featuring some very attractive British babes.
A cavalcade of crass and not in the least bit funny japes, Private Eye is a sorry state of affairs that makes even the weakest of the Confessions movies look like pure comedic genius. But what is REALLY sad about this film is seeing such a talented cast of British comic actors going to such waste: among those given absolutely nothing to work with are Irene Handl, Diana Dors, Liz Fraser, Harry H. Corbett, Willie Rushton, and Ian Lavender.
2.5/10, generously rounded up to 3 for the nostalgia factor, the film showing me West Byfleet Railway Station in all of its 70s glory and an early appearance by Peter Moran, who would go on to play obnoxious ginger Pogo Patterson in classic kids' TV series Grange Hill.
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