Friday, 27 June 2014

Rattle of a Simple Man (1964)

Adaptation of the 1962 stage play of the same name by Charles Dyer, you could be forgiven for thinking Rattle of a Simple Man is an archetypal 60s British comedy judging by its cast list and the cover of the recent Network DVD release. However, the film is actually a bittersweet study of two protagonists from very different walks of life imbued with a pleasant gentle humour and some stark home truths.

Steptoe and Son star Harry H Corbett stars as Percy, an innocent and simple man who, in his 30s, still lives at home with his parents. He's down from Manchester with his mates (including Michael Medwin and Last of the Summer Wine and Porridge star Brian Wilde) for the Cup Final at Wembley when, after the match, they take in the sights of Soho. There he meets Cyrenne (Diane Cilento, one time Mrs Sean Connery) a beautiful, cool and classy prostitute and is enticed into a bet with his pals that he can't take her back to hers and sleep with her.

The premise allows us to explore the differing morals and speed of life between the provincial North and the bright lights of the capital. Shot in 1964 it is perfectly timed to capture the brink of the Permissive Society and Corbett's gauche eye opener feels utterly believable. Essentially a two hander for much of the film, the performances of Corbett and Cilento are wonderfully watchable. Far more kitchen sink than the Carry On you would possibly expect - especially when one considers some of the big revelations regarding each character's life and the strong social comment; Dyer was after all a playwright who liked to focus on lives that weren't traditionally talked about, and would go on to write Staircase about an aging homosexual couple, also made into a film with Richard Burton and Rex Harrison in the latter half of the 60s - Rattle Of A Simple Man is an overlooked 1960s feature. The play has had a long and varied life with such renowned and popular actors as John Alderton and Pauline Collins and Stephen Tompkinson and Michelle Collins appearing in the lead roles in productions down the years.

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