Review for Love Thy Neighbour
Following on from the runaway success of the TV series (my review of the complete series here, also released this week), ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ was made into a feature film spin-off, sticking pretty much to the same formuala as the series, but extending its budget to encompass scenes of the key protaganists, Eddie and Bill, at work. These scenes, which take up about one third of the film, are a really great record of Elstree Studios back in the day as working areas and studio exteriors were used copiously throughout, providing what may be the best surviving record of that period in the studio’s history – much in the way that Gerry Anderson used Pinewood for his UFO TV series, pretty much warts and all.
White Labour supporter and work-shy racist, Eddie Booth and his long-suffering wife Joan live next door to Bill and Barbie Reynolds, a young, aspiring black couple. Whilst Joan and Barbie are best friends as well as good neighbours. Eddie is a hardened racist and a complete opposite to Bill in every regard. As a result, the pair are constantly sparring, mostly verbally but occasionally physically too. Despite this, their respective wives enter a ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ competition in a local newspaper to try and win a cruise.
To add to the overall element of utter farce, Eddie’s nagging mother (Peggy Mount) turns up to stay, much to Joan’s distaste as she does nothing but criticize her cooking. Shortly after that, Bill’s father turns up from Trinidad. In the meantime, in moment of peaceful co-operation, both husbands are trying to sneak out together to the working men’s club they belong to as there is the promise of a stripper.
It’s not long before the racist insults start to fly (read my review on the TV series for a view-point on this) and chaos returns. However, little do they know it, but their respective parents are about to show them a lesson in racial harmony; one that both Eddie and Bill feel they must prevent, whatever the cost.
Cue lots of high farce, British sit-com style, with both wives spending the majority of their on-screen time rolling their eyes and folding their arms.
The whole thing seems like an extended episode, albeit without the live audience laughter track, and it has little production value to commend it as anything more than that.
Having said that, it’s still entertaining enough to sustain its comedic energy throughout and, if you like the TV series, you’ll probably like this just as much. It’s a tribute to the series’ success that the film was The film was popular at the box office, being ranked the 15th most popular movie of the year in England.
It may seem horribly dated, and it’s certainly not very PC, but in common with the series, here can be no doubting its intent, with Eddie looking like a prize mug for having his ill-informed racist views which are consistently exasperating. There is one scene, when Bill and his friends pretend to be involved in primitive voodoo by putting Eddie naked into a giant, industrial sized catering pot in the works canteen whilst they dance around it half naked, chanting like Tarzan extras, where the full absurdity of Eddie’s views is amplified, but this use of stereotyping could understandably cause offence today, regardless of its intent. So you have been warned.
The series was just in its second season when filming on the spin-off began so its early days for the series, but the characters are well-formed and it could be argued that the ensemble cast were at the very height of their collective powers.
If you have bought or intend to but the series then you will get the film as part of the pack, though only on DVD. The big question is whether the Blu-Ray is worth a double-dip. I would suggest probably not. The film is offered up in 16:9 or in its TV full-frame aspect ratio. It looks to me like it was shot full frame and then cropped for cinema though I may be wrong. Only the cropped 16:9 version looks cleaned up; the full-screen version looks little better than the DVD.
Whatever the case, it’s a fun period TV spin-off film, one of the better attempts, and if you can accept the non-PC aspects as a reflection of its historic context, then it’s well worth a watch.