British comedy classic, Go to Blazes is to be released on DVD this month, to coincide with the film’s 50th anniversary.
As far as British comedy goes, or any comedy for that matter, be it from the UK, the US or Europe, sometimes you just can’t beat the old ones. They have a charm that has been lost over time.
Go to Blazes is no exception. Released in 1962, the film was made during a British comedy boom. The Carry On franchise was reaching its peak, and humour was just starting to become that little bit naughtier. Nowhere near the extent of today, of course. In fact in comparison to nowadays, Go to Blazes is rather innocent.
Set in the UK, the plot revolves around Bernard (Dave King), Harry (Daniel Massey) and Alfie (Norman Rossington): three foolhardy, unsuccessful crooks whose smash and grab schemes rarely work. After the robbery in the opening sequence is thwarted by cars giving way to a fire engine, they realise traffic and the law stop for fire engines. What could possibly be a better getaway vehicle? Any other vehicle actually, as they soon find out.
Upon release from jail the gang acquire a shiny fire engine for a jewellery robbery. However their plan unravels when they are mistaken for real firemen, and Harry, who was to perform the actual robbery, is spooked by the appearance of a policemen. A chance meeting with the beautiful Chantal, played by a very young Maggie Smith, is the catalyst for their attempt to pull off their biggest smash and grab yet.
It is silly and far-fetched, which is what makes it so enjoyable. The action isn’t over the top, nothing is overly complicated and derogatory, and above all else it is just good, straight-forward fun, with a hint of slapstick. It is clever too. I found myself both amused and impressed with their ingenuity, from the opening 30 seconds.
Harry is strolling along the road with a present and a bunch of flowers, appearing to be on his way to a date. However within moments he has smashed the ‘present’ which is actually a box with a brick inside, through a jewellery shop window and fished a wrench out of the bunch of flowers.
And their methods only become sillier and cleverer as the film progresses.
The three main characters are the perfect fit for their stereotypical roles: the cunning, the posh and the dim. They are always scheming, and seem to enjoy getting a slap on the wrist by the police for their crimes. In fact, you find yourself wanting them to succeed, bizarre as that sounds. Although of course that wouldn’t happen. The makers wouldn’t have wanted to appear like they condone robbery.
Possibly the funniest and most memorable scene in the entire film occurs, when Bernard and Alfie are flagged down by a distressed man whose house is flooding. They then have to work out how to use the equipment on hand, in order to not give themselves away as frauds. Of course that isn’t going to end well.
Go to Blazes up until now has been very difficult to come by. Especially in comparison to other comedy classics like Carry On Camping, which you can often catch on the TV. I have never spotted Go to Blazes on the box though, which is a real shame. It is a very good film. Original, quirky and good for the whole family.
While there are a couple of continuity errors and the film shows its age, it is wonderful to get a look at how the streets looked back in the sixties, and the film has been restored to a decent colour viewing standard. There are also subtitles available on the DVD, if you have trouble understanding their accents.
It’s worth a watch just to see Maggie Smith speaking with a very convincing French accent. It took me a while to even recognise her!
Other cast members include: Robert Morley, Dennis Price, Derek Nimmo, Thora Hird and Will Hay.
Go to Blazes is out on DVD on 30th January 2012, 50 years after it was originally seen in the cinemas.