On the Buses (film)

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On the Buses
Film poster by Arnaldo Putzu
1971 Film poster
Directed by Harry Booth
Produced by Ronald Chesney
Ronald Wolfe
Written by Ronald Chesney
Ronald Wolfe
Starring Reg Varney
Doris Hare
Anna Karen
Bob Grant
Stephen Lewis
Michael Robbins
Music by Max Harris
Cinematography Mark McDonald
Edited by Archie Ludski
Distributed by MGM-EMI
Release dates
  • July 1971 (1971-07)
Running time
88 mins.
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £90,000[1][2]
Box office £2,500,000[3]

On the Buses is a 1971 British comedy film directed by Harry Booth and starring Reg Varney and Doris Hare. The film is the first spin-off film from the TV sitcom On the Buses and was followed by two further films Mutiny on the Buses (1972) and Holiday on the Buses (1973). The films are set within a slightly different canon from the TV series - Stan and Jack work for a different bus company, and the three films form a loose story arc where Arthur and Olive become parents (despite their apparently sexless marriage).

The film was produced by Ronald Chesney and Ronald Wolfe for Hammer Films,[4] and enjoyed major success in Britain, outdoing Diamonds Are Forever to become the highest performing film of 1971, though that film was not released until December 1971.[5]


Bus driver Stan (Reg Varney) cannot afford the payments on a new washing machine or other expensive items his Mum and sister have bought on hire purchase. His overtime earnings have been cut because the bus company has decided to revoke a long-standing rule and employ women bus drivers. Worried at the thought of no overtime, and therefore less wages, he joins forces with his longtime work colleague Jack (Bob Grant) to sabotage the new female employees. Meanwhile, just as his sister Olive (Anna Karen) starts working in the canteen, she discovers that she's expecting a baby. A sub plot explores Olive's journey to hospital while in labour in a motorcycle side car and the domestic disturbance the baby brings. Another sub plot explores Stan and Jack's amorous adventures. Stan flees a jealous husband in his bus and demolishes a telephone kiosk and bus shelter in the process. As a result he is forced to undertake a driving test on a bus skid pan.

Stan and Jack join forces to sabotage the new female employees and get back their overtime. They place fake diversion signs along their routes in order to get them into trouble for running behind schedule. Then they put diuretic in the female bus drivers tea causing them to make frequent loo stops, then terrify them by putting spiders on their buses. Eventually the women resign but Blakey (Stephen Lewis) the bus inspector finally rehires them as assistant inspectors.



The film was made on location and at Elstree Studios at Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.[6] Stage 5 at Elstree was used for the exteriors of the bus station both in this film and in the later sequels.[7]

The film includes shots of a London Routemaster RM200 (VLT 200) undergoing the skid tests at the Chiswick Works "skid pan".[8]

The buses used in road shots were Eastern National Bristol KSW5Gs numbered 2359 (VNO857), 2367 (VNO862), 2371 (VNO866) and 2376 (WNO476).[8]


The film was the second most popular movie at the British box office in 1971.,[9] and returned more at the UK box office than the latest James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. It earned £1,500,000 in the UK and £1,000,000 overseas, making a profit to Hammer of £532,000. It's box office gross was nearly 28 times the amount of it's budget.[2][10]

Reviewing On the Buses in The Spectator, Christopher Hudson called it " a dullish adaption of the ITV series." [11]


  1. ^ Alexander Walker, National Heroes: British Cinema in the Seventies and Eighties, Harrap, 1985 p 114
  2. ^ a b Can film-makers Carry On? Bell, Brian. The Observer (1901- 2003) [London (UK)] 11 Aug 1974: 11.
  3. ^ Marcus Hearn & Alan Barnes, The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films, Titan Books, 2007 p 149
  4. ^ On the Buses at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ http://www.onthebusesfanclub.com/id48.html
  6. ^ On The Buses Location at IMDB. Retrieved Dec 2011
  7. ^ On the Busses fan club, locations Retrieved Dec 2011
  8. ^ a b Buses on screen On the Buses (1972, Reg Varney)
  9. ^ Peter Waymark. "Richard Burton top draw in British cinemas." Times [London, England] 30 Dec. 1971: 2. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
  10. ^ Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio, Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography, McFarland, 1996 p343
  11. ^ Christopher Hudson, The Spectator. 20 August 1971, Page 19