Mutiny on the Buses (1972)
Director: Harry Booth
Cast: Reg Varney, Doris Hare, Michael Robbins
Synopsis: Bus driver Stan Butler agrees to marry Suzy, much to the anguish of Mum, her son-in-law, Arthur, and daughter Olive. How, they wonder, will they ever manage without Stan’s money coming in?
There’s something vaguely hellish about this TV spin-off’s depiction of working class life. Stan (Reg Varney), the lead character is a work-shy bus driver, approaching middle age, still living in his mum’s cramped home with his plain sister, her miserable husband and a baby boy who spends all his time crying or farting on his potty. We see Stan’s conductor friend Jack (Bob Grant), gleefully (and fraudulently) taking ticket money from his passengers and then heading straight to the bookies with his ill-gotten gains, while Stan engages in some heavy petting with his clippie girlfriend, to whom he dubiously assures his love with the sole intention of making her compliant to his carnal desires. And yet this is typical of 1970s TV’s opinion of the working class – work-shy, sex-obsessed ingrates who think nothing of living in near squalor.
There are a few laughs in this otherwise pedestrian comedy, and they are all provided by Stephen Lewis who, in the hopelessly downtrodden guise of Inspector Blake, created one of British TV’s enduring comic icons. The plot revolves around Stan’s efforts to raise enough cash to put down a deposit on a flat so that he can move in with his clippie girlfriend, but is really just a device by which a number of comic set-pieces are played out. If you’re a lover of the TV series, you’ll love this; if, like me, it reminds you of your childhood, the fog of nostalgia will probably blind you to its countless shortcomings – but anyone else will do well to make it through the entire movie.
(Reviewed 23rd April 2012)