An intermediary work, one foot in Ealing gentility, the other in the abrasion of Anderson, Reisz, et al. John Boulting's barnstorming technique is far closer to Tashlin than to Swift, Peter Sellers is introduced as a kind of Colonel Blimp relic expiring with the war before the credits usher in rock 'n' roll and doodles ("Oh! Brave New World"). The lamb is an aristocratic twit (Ian Carmichael), out of Oxford and eager to "work his way up" the economic ladder. His honesty (or imbecility -- same thing here, virtually) kills prospects at a detergent company, the machines at the outrageously unappetizing chocolate factory swallow his bowler hat and excrete candy bars (cp. the bread contraption in The Rake's Progress). He ends up at Missiles Ltd, grinningly entering the gates in spiffy plaid jacket amid the gray masses. He's warned about unsettling the "industrial peace," but that's just what the bosses want: The clueless Carmichael is a puppet in the orchestration of a workers' strike, itself a cog in corporate skullduggery with tendrils stretching to the Middle East. "Fascist!" screams one side and "Bolshy!" the other, plenty of nose-thumbing to go around. Margaret Rutherford is capitalism's stuffed bull elephant, Richard Attenborough and Dennis Price its wolves, yet unionists just as readily swim in venality, laziness, and racism. There's the "Yum-Yum" billboard overseeing the rubbish dump, the media documenting the struggle with "a nice, warm human story," and teenybopper Liz Fraser, whose vacant stare comes to life at the sound of a double-entendre ("commercial intercourse with foreigners," she's told about export business). In the midst of it all, Marxist shop steward Sellers, with Chaplin/Hitler 'tache, becomes a most soulful presence -- his earnestness slides right off Terry-Thomas's exquisite oiliness. Still, it's Carmichael who in a flash of clarity finally tells off the charlatans on live TV (the new labor-management mediator) and is shipped off to the sanatorium for his trouble. Boulting concludes on a fine Daumier image, social injustice running bare-assed into the new decade. With Irene Handl, Miles Malleson, Marne Maitland, John Le Mesurier, and Raymond Huntley. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce