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
Production
company
Distributed by MGM-EMI
Release dates
  • July 1971 (1971-07)
Running time
88 minutes
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 (Town & District instead of Luxton & District), 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]

Synopsis[edit]

Stan Butler (Reg Varney), a bus driver for the Town & District bus company, becomes worried that the overtime he is making, which his family is using to buy expensive items such as a washing machine, will soon end when the company rectifies its current lack of employees. His concerns become justified when the company decides to revoke a long-standing rule that prevent women from being employed as bus drivers, much to the chagrin of both Stan and his long time colleague and friend, Jack (Bob Grant). The loss of overtime that he was making, forces Stan to persuade his sister Olive (Anna Karen) to get employment at the company's canteen, yet despite a disastrous start, she and her husband, Arthur, soon discovers that she is pregnant, resulting in her losing her job, and forcing the Butler family to send back the items they can't afford to pay. At the same time, Stan gets into trouble with the company when, while attempting to recover something of Jack's from a woman he had been seeing, he manages to inadvertently demolish both a telephone kiosk and a bus shelter whilst trying to avoid being caught by the woman's jealous husband. Despite his efforts to lie about why he caused the damage, Blakey (Stephen Lewis), the company's Bus Inspector, takes delight that he has to undertake a driving test on a bus skid pan in order to keep his job, but soon regrets supervising the test when Stan decides to get his own back on Blakey's amusement by beginning the test with him still on the bus being used for it.

Whilst he manages to pass the test, Stan soon becomes worried that the employment of women bus drivers will affect both his and Jack's layabout lifestyle at the company, while reducing their pay and preventing Jack from conducting amorous flings with women whilst on the company's time. The pair decide that the best way to prevent this from happening is to simply sabotage the company's new employment scheme by making the women drivers look bad, and initially pull off small pranks. These, however, have little effect, until Stan comes up with the idea to lace their teas with a diuretic, upon learning of what it does when Olive acquires some for her pregnancy, resulting in the women drivers being forced to make frequent loo stops whilst on their routes. Later, when Stan witnesses Olive become terrified of a spider, he and Jack quickly gather some to plant in the cabs of the women's buses, causing further disruption with the buses.

As Olive's pregnancy draws closer to labour, Arthur requests Stan's help in fixing the springs on his motorcycle's sidecar to prepare it for the trip to the hospital, but whilst bringing the springs into the depot to get them fixed, amongst a few small things for the new baby, he and Jack discover that the company recently ordered for a number of diversion signs to be made in order to reroute buses away from roadworks in town. Deciding to take advantage of this, the pair arrange for more to be made for their own personal use, before planting them out on the women's routes, thus causing them even more trouble with bus management; one false diversion causes a woman driver to get forced onto a motorway, causing her and Blakey, who was onboard, to get in trouble with the police.

While a mishap occurs in getting her to the hospital, Olive manages to give birth to a new son, but the joyful arrival soon brings to disruptions to the Butler household as they struggle to cope with the new child. Meanwhile, Stan and Jack are delighted to learn their sabotage was a success when the company announces their decision to no longer employ women bus drivers, but their celebration is short-lived when they learn that Blakey re-hired the women drivers they tormented as brand new inspectors for their route, who promptly separate the two onto different routes. Although the pair are not happy about this, Stan soon sees a silver-lining to their situation when he is twinned with a new female clipee for his route. The story ends with Stan managing to cause trouble to Blakey, much to his delight as heads off to do his route.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

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]

Reception[edit]

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. Its box office gross was nearly 28 times the amount of its budget.[2][10]

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

References[edit]

  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