British film comedies of the 60s rarely come as amiable or colourful as the brace of Julian Wintle-Leslie Parkyn productions The Fast Lady and Father Came Too!, both newly restored in stunning HD from Network. These two Eastmancolor comedies belong to a somewhat overlooked series of movies that briefly emerged as potential challengers to the might of the Carry Ons during the early 1960s.
With Peter Rogers’ Pinewood-based productions enjoying huge success, the notion of an ongoing comedy film series featuring a ‘rep company’ of popular comic talent was clearly appealing to other studios, and Independent Artists’ production team of Julian Wintle and Leslie Parkyn clearly saw the potential of such a series. Julian Wintle, who would go on to serve as producer on ABC’s The Avengers for three years, was head of Beaconsfield studios at the time, and it was here that the two colour comedies were produced.
Wintle and Parkyn had hit on their own winning formula with 1961’s Very Important Person, an interesting comic/drama hybrid set in a P.O.W. camp during World War II, that saw James Robertson Justice appearing alongside Carry On regular Leslie Phillips and relative newcomer Stanley Baxter. The team returned the following year in the comedy caper Crooks Anonymous, which added the considerable comic talents of Wilfrid Hyde-White, as well as marking the big screen debut of Julie Christie.
The Wintle-Parkyn team was now beginning to look well established, and four of the stars of Crooks Anonymous were reunited, this time in colour, for 1963’s The Fast Lady. The movie’s success at the box office was a clear invitation to repeat the winning formula as closely as possible, and Father Came Too! was seemingly intended as a more or less straight sequel to the former comedy, with Stanley Baxter and Julie Christie’s characters now happily married, albeit less happy to be living under the same roof as domineering daddy James Robertson Justice. Julie Christie, however, was now well on her way to global stardom, so into the breach stepped actress Sally Smith. The established comic team of the former Wintle-Parkyn productions was augmented this time around by rising star Ronnie Barker in the role of jobbing builder Josh Wicks, whose team of skiffling ‘scrubbers’ included a pre-Randall and Hopkirk Kenneth Cope.
Where The Fast Lady played on all the familiar comedy tropes surrounding the subject of motoring, Father Came Too! did the same for home improvement. DIY had become something of a national obsession during the 1950s, and by the end of the decade, news stands were fairly groaning under the weight of periodicals like Practical Householder offering advice to all would be doers-up of houses – whilst on television, Barry Bucknell had become a household name doing much the same thing. Painting and decorating as a vehicle for film comedy was as old as the medium itself, and many of the antics depicted during the renovation of Rose Cottage would have been perfectly at home (pun intended) in any Mack Sennett or Laurel and Hardy outing.
The Fast Lady had included a climactic chase sequence featuring cameos from many well-known comic personalities of the day, and Father Came Too! did likewise, with a carnival scene affording glimpses of Terry Scott, Hugh Lloyd and Peter Jones amongst others. Like the rest of the film, it’s a fast-paced colourful romp, but sadly Father Came Too! was to be the penultimate movie from Independent Artists, whose Beaconsfield Studios base would later become home to the National Film and Television School.
Father Came Too! made its British television debut on BBC1 on Tuesday March 27 1973, as the last in a strand of ‘British Film Comedy’ that had been running since the previous September – and would see one further outing in 1977 before being picked up by ITV in the 1980s. By 2005 it was back at the BBC, where it was rolled out in a variety of morning and early afternoon slots, by which time the original, unrestored Network DVD release was available.
For this new release, Father Came Too! has been scanned to 2k resolution and extensively restored in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1. One might even venture to suggest it’s ‘scrubbed up’ rather well… which sounds like the cue for a song…