The Bed Sitting Room (film)
|The Bed Sitting Room|
British DVD cover
|Directed by||Richard Lester|
|Produced by||Oscar Lewenstein|
|Written by||Spike Milligan|
|Screenplay by||Charles Wood (adaption)|
|Based on||The Bedsitting Room (play)|
|Music by||Ken Thorne|
|Edited by||John Victor Smith|
Oscar Lewenstein Productions
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|91 minutes |
The Bed Sitting Room is a 1969 British comedy film directed by Richard Lester, starring an ensemble cast of British comic actors, and based on the play of the same name. It was entered into the 19th Berlin International Film Festival. The film is an absurdist, post-apocalyptic, satirical black comedy.
The film is set in London on the third or fourth anniversary of a nuclear war which lasted two minutes and twenty-eight seconds, including signing the peace treaty. Three (or possibly four) years after the nuclear holocaust, the survivors wander amidst the debris. Penelope is 17 months pregnant and lives with her lover, Alan, and her parents in a tube train on the (still functioning) Circle line.
Other survivors include Captain Bules Martin, who holds a "Defeat of England" medal, as he was unable to save Buckingham Palace from disintegration during the war. Lord Fortnum (Richardson) is fearful that he will mutate into the "bed sitting room" of the title. Mate is a fireguard, except that there is nothing left to burn. Shelter Man is a Regional Seat of Government who survived the war in a fallout shelter and spends his days looking at old films (without a projector) and reminiscing about the time he shot his wife and his mother as they pleaded with him to let them in his shelter. Similarly, the "National Health Service" is the name of a male nurse, although overwhelmed by the extent of the war. Finally, there are two policemen (Cook and Moore), who hover overhead in the shell of a Morris Minor Panda car that has been made into a makeshift balloon, and shout "keep moving" at any survivors they see to offset the danger of them becoming a target in the unlikely event of another outbreak of hostilities.
Lord Fortnum travels to 29 Cul de Sac Place and actually does become a bed-sitting room. Penelope's mother is provided with a death certificate, after which she turns into a wardrobe. Penelope is forced to marry Martin because of his "bright future", despite her love for Alan. Her father is initially selected to become Prime Minister due to "his inside leg measurements," but unfortunately, he mutates into a parrot and is eaten due to the starvation conditions that prevail.
Penelope finally gives birth, but her monstrous mutant progeny dies. It emerges that Martin is impotent, so he yields marriage consummation to Alan. Penelope has a second child, which is normal, and there is an indication of hope for the future of the country amidst the devastation when it transpires that a team of surgeons have developed a cure for the mutations involving full-body transplant. Finally, a military band pays homage to Mrs. Ethel Shroake of 393A High Street, Leytonstone, the late Queen's former charwoman, and closest in succession to the throne.
- Ralph Richardson as Lord Fortnum of Alamein
- Rita Tushingham as Penelope
- Michael Hordern as Bules Martin
- Arthur Lowe as Father
- Mona Washbourne as Mother
- Peter Cook as Police Inspector
- Dudley Moore as Police Sergeant
- Spike Milligan as Mate
- Harry Secombe as Shelter Man
- Marty Feldman as Nurse Arthur
- Jimmy Edwards as Nigel
- Roy Kinnear as Plastic Mac Man
- Ronald Fraser as The Army
- Richard Warwick as Alan
- Frank Thornton as The BBC
- Dandy Nichols as Mrs Ethel Shroake
- Jack Shepherd as Underwater Vicar
- Henry Woolf as Electricity Man
After completing Petulia, Richard Lester had intended his next film to be Up Against It, which was written by playwright Joe Orton, but Orton was murdered shortly before production. Lester offered this to United Artists as a replacement. It was filmed between May and July 1968, mainly in and around Chobham Common. When the executives at United Artists saw the film, they hated it, and it was shelved for a year, only getting its first release at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1969. It wasn't released in the UK until March 1970. The Bed Sitting Room would be the last film released by United Artists' foreign film arm Lopert Pictures Corporation, which folded in 1970.
The absurdity of the film extends even to the settings. One scene is shot beside a pile upon which a British pottery firm had been throwing rejected plates since World War II (the joke being that an actor is looking for a dish that isn't broken). Another set of the film is a mock triumphal arch made of appliance doors, beneath which a Mrs. Ethel Shroake ("of 393A High Street, Leytonstone"), the closest in line for the throne, is mounted on a horse. Even the opening credits have a touch of the absurd, listing the cast not by appearance or alphabetically, but by height.
Release and reception
On 26 March 1970, the film premiered in London at the CineCenta Cinema on Panton Street (today Odeon Panton Street), which was Europe's first multi-screen cinema. John Russell Taylor in The Times found the film both funny and frightening, but lacking ideas enough for a whole feature film: "Precisely the same objection applies to the film as applied to the play: that it is based on one of those ideas which are fine in themselves but suffer from the drawback that once you have stated them, all you can do is state them again, louder".
DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases
- BBFC: The Bed Sitting Room Linked 2017-02-13
- "IMDb.com: Awards for The Bed Sitting Room". IMDb.com. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- Brooke, Michael. "The Bed Sitting Room". Film Notes.
- Brosnan, John (1979). "Bed Sitting Room, The". In Nicholls, Peter (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1st ed.). Granada. pp. 63–64. ISBN 0-586-05380-8.
- Cinema Treasures: Odeon Panton Street Linked 2017-02-13
- The Times, 26 March 1970, page 15: Lord Fortnum's masonry Linked 2017-02-13
- French, Philip (21 June 2009). "The Bed Sitting Room". The Guardian. London.