Wednesday, May 15, 2013

POSTMAN'S KNOCK (1962)

A SHAMEFUL WASTE OF A COMIC GENIUS. 

MGM unleashed this extremely minor comedy on the world in 1962; or it probably is more accurate to say that the film wandered slowly out of the studio when the gate was left open.  Spike Milligan -- rightly revered from his work writing and starring in the illustrious wireless talking-type radio classic GOON SHOW -- was cast as a country postman who gets promoted to the big city of London.  While there he is at equal turns bewildered by city ways and something of an idiot savant with outdoing post office machinery.  Or something.  This is one of those pictures where a star from a medium outside the movies - in Spike's case radio - is shoe-horned into a film where the premise seems to have been arrived at as a means to an end -- in Spike's case let's make him . . . um . . . let's see . . . how about a postman and then we'll write the jokes around that occupation.  POSTMAN'S KNOCK could've starred ANY British comic actor with absolutely no change to the script or direction of the film.  Spike is damn near invisible in the film with absolutely none of his rapier-like comic madness on display; he demonstrates one or two pleasant comic turns during the entire film -- none of which elicits more than a smile.  The astonishing part is that the script apparently required the input of five writers -- one of which was Spike himself (God knows where) providing "additional dialogue".  This is in itself funnier than anything in the film since POSTMAN'S KNOCK utilizes Spike as more of a silent film comedian doing mostly visual slapstick; very odd for a comedian who made his reputation with spoken dialogue on the radio!  None of the slapstick is particularly funny and most had been seen many times before and is totally predictable.  POSTMAN'S KNOCK is one of those minor comedies which is forgotten almost as soon as the end card fades away.

Besides Spike Milligan, the film stars the usually wonderful Barbara Shelley (Hammer Horror heroine of everything from DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS to QUATERMASS AND THE PIT) here coming off as bland and uninteresting as the art student Spike's postman stumbles across as soon as he arrives in London.  Shelley's character is so insipidly written as noble and virginal that there can be no real interest in her either.  Startlingly, John Wood (creator of the mad supercomputer in the early 80's Matthew Broderick film WAR GAMES) appears here incredibly young-looking as a bumbling policeman endlessly shadowing Spike and Barbara for some reason or another.  Other wonderful British character actors appear to no great effect:  Wilfrid Lawson (PYGMALION's Alfred P. Doolittle), Bob Todd (for years on THE BENNY HILL SHOW), beloved Arthur Mullard (the café boss in SMASHING TIME amongst many other appearance) and, with probably the most pleasing performance in the film (and that's not saying much) Miles Malleson ("Room for one more inside, sir") as a dotty psychologist in probably the only memorable scene in the film.  Lacklusterly directed by Robert Lynn who specialized mostly in television (a couple episodes of SPACE:  1999, several episodes of CAPTAIN SCARLET & THE MYSTERONS and one lone EDGAR WALLACE MYSTERY THEATRE his most notable), POSTMAN'S KNOCK is a sad waste of talent all the way round.   

5 comments:

Weaverman said...

While agreeing with you totally in your assessment of POSTMAN'S KNOCK's lack of quality I can offer a slightly different perspective on it. I spent many years working in the postal system and while the film generally lacks reality there are a few rare moments in the film that would undoubtedly make an ex-postie laugh outloud either for their total inaccuracy or because of evoked memories. That said, the film stinks. As a footnote, a friend, who had a job where he spent much time working with celebrities including the likes of Mohamed Ali, Ginger Rogers and many literary said that based on one day with Spike he regarded him as the most unpleasant person he had ever had to deal with despite the fact he was himself a big fan of Spike's work - considering that my friend had also spent a day with Jeffrey Archer this is an opinion I do not take lightly. Spike's bi-polar condition probably had a lot to do with it but it did not make my friend's experience of the day any better.

Weaverman said...

correction : "many literati"

ernest said...

As you say, Robert Lynn certainly had a lacklustre career, but for me its one interesting moment was not his Edgar Wallace film but rather DR.CRIPPEN, a surprisingly sympathetic take on the notorious murderer with an excellent performance by Donald Pleasence. I don't think Lynn's flat direction added anything to the film but the subject and cast carried it. Dr.Crippen's story deserves a quality remake.

Cerpts said...

I have not seen DR CRIPPEN but have heard about it. I will also agree that, by all accounts, Spike was an extremely unpleasant experience to confront in real life. While I consider him one of the greatest comic geniuses of the 20th century, I'm also glad that I never met him!

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