Sunday, May 15, 2011


The Bed Sitting Room Directed by Richard Lester

Damn it, I'm pretty sure I just went insane. Either that or Richard "Superman II" Lester did back in 1969. Or both.

I like a weird movie. Terry Gilliam always makes me smile, and never so much so as in Brazil (except maybe also Twelve Monkeys). Alejandro Jodorowsky makes me scratch my head in (mostly) that good way. Stanley Kubrick is always entertaining, especially when he's romping through Doctor Strangelove. And long have I been a Monty Python fan -- so long I can't remember not being one. Because my mother is that awesome.

While I can't say I've ever seriously asked myself what would happen if we took all of the above, ran it through a blender (with a good dose of the Philip K. Dick of Dr. Bloodmoney) and filmed the result, it would appear that someone else did -- and many years before a lot of that stuff even existed: in 1969 Richard Lester, who would later make two Christopher Reeve Superman movies and a lot of other junk, teamed up with the original authors of the stage play, Spike Milligan and John Antrobus, and made this utter farce, The Bed Sitting Room.

The Bed Sitting Room is an absurd picaresque that follows a handful of characters through a Britain that has been utterly destroyed by a "nuclear misunderstanding" that may or may not have had its origins in a dispute over how much rent the nation owed the Chinese for continued occupancy of No. 10 Downing Street. Of the estimated 20 people who remain alive, the nearest in line to the throne is a Mrs. Etheyl Shroake, whose name and residence cause no end of metrical dilemmas to those who sing the revised national anthem and who looks most uncomfortable seated royally on a horse. Fortunately, she doesn't have to much as she is the least interesting figure, with the least screen time in the film. Yeah, it's like that.

What we have instead of a dotty suburban dame trying to rule the rubble is a family who live on a still-running train in the London Underground, who emerge into the wasteland above only when the parents finally decide it's time they found a nurse to help daughter Penelope have her baby -- she has been pregnant for 18 months after all. And that is not their only cause for hurry; whatever bomb destroyed Britain has left behind powerfully weird mutagens; a Peer is transforming into the titular bed sitting room, a sergeant into a dog, and as for Mummy and Daddy, well!

All of this madness is handled with pure British aplomb even as ridiculous lines are delivered: "I always knew my inside leg would lead to power" being, perhaps, my favorite, except, perhaps, when Peter Cook, in a move way prefiguring his iconic appearance in The Princess Bride, dons a mitre and performs a farcical wedding ceremony amidst the rubble of St. Paul's Cathedral.

And hey, it won a Hugo award!

To watch this film is to constantly wonder if it is real, so fantastic is its melange of ideas and images and slingshots into the boffo. It's streaming on Netflix right now; if you think you can stand this much awesome, you owe it to yourself to go have a look.

But avoid beverages unless you like spraying them all over the living room.

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