Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Spring and Port Wine (1970)

Spring and Port Wine tells the story of a patriarchal battle of wills in a small Bolton household between obdurate Rafe Crompton (James Mason) and his children, chief among them Susan George who defies him by refusing to eat a plate of herring one evening, leading him to serve it up for her day after day.

Bolton born playwright Bill Naughton (Alfie, The Family Way) delivers his own adaptation of his stageplay here and it rather shows; Spring and Port Wine is not the film to go to if you're after action and high drama. But, if like me you enjoy a slice of 60s kitchen sink, then there's much to enjoy here.

Mason heads up a great cast including Diana Coupland (Bless This House) as his wife, Hannah Gordon and the aforementioned teatime rebellious George as his daughters Rodney Bewes (The Likely Lads) and Len Jones (the voice of Joe 90) as his sons. Over the course of the film, each character comes to challenge the stubborn, strict ways of the patrician leading him to realise he needs to be more flexible and allow his children to be the adults they are or are on the way to becoming.

There's also some great and familiar faces in supporting roles too including Frank Windsor from Z Cars, the delightful Adrienne Posta - a firm favourite of mine - as well as Dad's Army's Arthur Lowe and Carry On star Bernard Bresslaw. Though admittedly the latter two, billed as 'special guest appearances' contribute very little in their extremely brief scenes and the roles could have been taken by anyone. Perhaps if they had been so, the film would feel less like an elongated sitcom at times.

But for me the real star of Spring and Port Wine is the town of Bolton which is beautifully captured in its 1960s fading glory here as it was in the (admittedly superior) Naughton film The Family Way some four years previously. I was born and still live not far from Bolton and for many years it was a town to visit on a regular basis for its market, so its nice to see it here with its row of terraced houses, its newly built council estates and the industrial scenery surrounding it.

It's not the best of the genre by any means, but it remains an enjoyable watch now as it was the first time I saw it which, I can well recall - watching it on TV after being given the afternoon off junior school and swimming class to attend a verruca clinic!


  1. Yes, in many respects it's not a classic of the genre but is still a delight. Certainly a personal favourite of mine with nice performances all round and some quiet charm. I think I fell in love with Susan George when I first saw it on the telly back in the 70's.

    1. As a piece I imagine it works really well, perhaps better, on stage and I'm pleased to hear it is still performed more or less regularly up and down the country - I'll have to see if I can catch a production one day.

      I think we've all fell in love with Susan George down the years ;)

  2. ah, one of my favourite films. James Mason is a treat. Its such a natural film.

    1. Have you see The Family Way, Sharon? If you haven't and this is one of your favourites I know you'll love that one too. They recently remade it with an Asian cast in Bolton called All In Good Time