The Wrong Arm of the Law is a 1963 British comedy film directed by Cliff Owen and starring Peter Sellers, Bernard Cribbins, Lionel Jeffries, John Le Mesurier and Bill Kerr. It was partly written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson
Too Many Crooks is a 1959 British comedy film directed by Mario Zampi. The plot concerns a bunch of inept crooks who kidnap the wife of a shady businessman, only for him to decide he doesn’t want her back. It stars George Cole, Sidney James and Bernard Bresslaw as members of the gang, alongside Brenda De Banzie as the victim and Terry-Thomas as her husband.
I have a guest blog over at the splendid Carry On Blogging!
‘It’s been said that the British like eccentrics and I think it’s certainly true that we have a predisposition towards the odd, the awkward – especially where our entertainers are concerned. Britain has had its share of slick matinée idols of course, but there was always something a bit rough around the edges about the likes of Oliver Reed, Richard Burton and Sean Connery.’
Read the rest here, if you’re that way inclined, and check out the rest of the blog.
Over at Pulp Pusher, I talk to the Tartan Noir kingpin about Last Year’s Man and gangster films.
‘We haven’t had a Q&A at Pulp Pusher for quite some time. So, I thought we should so something about that.
February 21, 2018
I should try a little harder to point all of the fantastic elements of this short sharp novel and certainly I could do better than that bulleted list, but hell, I can’t resist sharing at least a few:
“The bar had the smell of a soggy nun”
“A storm had gouged open the battered and bruised sky”
“A wiry old duffer sat nursing a half-pint of Guinness and reading a battered copy of Ivanhoe, pausing occasionally to sniff the pages”
“There comes a time in every man’s life when he knows he will never be The Fonz”.
I loved this book. It captures the cold damp violent sleaze of London that makes us love that city. I miss drinking pints in those pubs. The dialogue is true and fresh and the characters are interesting and surprising. I think of this as a London underworld novel, with emphasis on the ‘world’. There is such a rich cast of characters that you will feel like you are getting a glimpse of the rough world that most of us (thankfully) don’t see in the real world. You won’t regret reading this “Cold London Blues”
Over at his blog, Jack Strange says:
‘The story itself is a can of worms into which the freakish cast is drawn willy nilly, through their different points of contact with a criminal family, a heist, a number of hits, and one or two murders that aren’t hits.
But this book isn’t just about characters and plot.
First and foremost it’s about language, and this is where it really shines.
It’s written like a hard-boiled novel from the fifties, updated for the present day, turbocharged, and powered by rocket-fuel.
There is at least one line on every page you’ll want to quote to your friends. On many pages there are several. ‘
Read the rest here.
Nancy is an unsuccessful London actress whose life goes decidedly pear-shaped when she gets pregnant – with the Antichrist.
Anne Billson’s The Coming Thing is a hell of a romp.
It’s like an inventive, witty and fast-moving cocktail of Ealing Comedy, the Final Destination films, The Plank, ’80s satire, and more.
The Coming Thing is a bundle of joy and is highly recommended.
“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot. To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!” – Charlie Chaplin
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.’” – Samuel Becket.
As Chaplin showed, there has always been a dark aspect to British comedy and, indeed, there is also usally a sharp, shot of humour in British dark fiction. Tragicomedy that errs on the side of the tragic, perhaps.
A perfect home for life’s perpetual failures, then.
Think of Alexander Mackendrick’s classic 1955 film The Ladykillers where a group of gangsters hole-up in a cute little old ladies house and take turns trying to kill her. They fail, of course.
Or try the eponymous character created by comedian Tony Hancock in the 1950s who, on radio, on television and in film, tried his hand at so many different activities and failed. One episode –The Bedsitter – teeters dangerously on the precipice of bleak existentialism. The Bedsitter is a one-room set, one-man-show, where Hancock endlessly flips through a Bertrand Russell tome trying to find meaning in life, but fails, of course. As Hancock said: ‘Stone me, what a life!’
And more: Sixties sit-com The Worker had the perpetually unemployed Charlie Drake regularly annoying Mr Pugh at the employment centre, trying lots of jobs and failing at all of them. One of the United Kingdom’s longest running television series, Only Fools and Horses, featured wheeling and dealing market stall traders whose scams always failed but who genuinely believed that ‘This time next year, we’ll be millionaires.’
Indeed, if the shiny happy American comedy series Friends had been made in the UK it would probably have ended up more like Sartre’s No Exit since hell truly is THOSE people.
So, if crime fiction is about bringing order to chaos and noir is about bringing chaos to order, then perhaps British comedy is pure noir.
Or maybe, it’s just the weather.