Release Date(s)1967 (August 14, 2018)
Studio(s)Partisan/Selmur/Paramount Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: C
Smashing Time follows the misadventures of Yvonne (Lynn Redgrave, Georgy Girl) and Brenda (Rita Tushingham, A Taste of Honey), two friends from the provinces who descend upon ‘60s-era swinging London to find fame and fortune in the mod milieu. Yvonne is loud and ditzy, Brenda is unassertive and mousy, and both are more vulnerable than they know. They are hired and abruptly fired from a string of menial jobs, making a slapstick mess of whatever situation arises. Along the way, they encounter a tabloid photographer (Michael York), who chronicles some of their exploits on film. Misdirected and at odds, the girls eventually go their own ways but both find themselves in show business via improbable paths.
Director Desmond Davis (Girl With Green Eyes), who worked mostly in television, captures the free-wheeling 60s vibe as the girls make their way to assorted boutiques and discotheques of Carnaby Street and find themselves in the hustle bustle of Piccadilly Circus. Obviously a fan of visual comedy, he patterns the gal pals after Laurel and Hardy. Tushingham’s Brenda is the bewildered Laurel, Redgrave’s Yvonne is the aggressive Hardy.
An elaborate comic fight in a fish and chips shop inadvertently instigated by the hapless Brenda, with spray cans of paint, shaving cream, deodorant, and fertilizer, is initially funny but goes on far too long. Mr. Davis adds some interesting touches, such as various colored paints filling the screen as if the camera lens itself has been sprayed, but the timing and editing are off, so the gags don’t land as intended.
A later scene also derives from classic silent slapstick. It takes place in a pie shop, and based on the earlier spray can battle, we know what’s going to happen. Lo and behold, the patrons and staff hurl the pies at everyone and everything while one elegantly dressed diner refuses to be distracted from his meal as the chaos ensues.
A comic bedroom scene features sleazy Mr. Bobby Mome-Rath (Ian Carmichael) attempting to set the stage for seducing Yvonne. Trying to protect her friend, Brenda slinks around, unseen, trying to sabotage their evening by pouring massive amounts bubble bath in his tub, strategically placing tacks on the floor to target his bare feet, and adding a laxative to his brandy.
A recording session scene satirizes the musical gimmicks of the time, including use of sitar and girl backup vocals, and an art gallery scene features lookalikes of some of the celebrities of the era and a to-do with booby-trapped robots. The movie’s episodic structure flits from one misadventure to the next.
Ms. Redgrave has the more flamboyant role as Yvonne, but her strong regional accent and fast manner of speaking make it difficult to understand her. I had to turn on the optional subtitles to follow the dialogue. Yvonne’s clothes are perfect. Whether mini skirt or tight hour-glass gown, the costumes add another layer of humor. With an assortment of wigs only slightly exaggerated from some of the hairstyles of the 60s, she’s the poster girl for mod wannabe chic.
Ms. Tushingham, with the more subdued role, is not as adept as eliciting laughs. She has a lost puppy dog air and doesn’t look as comfortable as her co-star in the broader scenes. However, the contrast keeps things reasonably interesting. Comedy duos traditionally require a proper balance and two girls with similar in-your-face personalities might have been too overwhelming. As written, the script treats Brenda as comic foil more than initiator of gags.
Production design adds to the look of ‘60s London when it was the coolest place on earth. Intended to satirize the era, the film captures the milieu and atmosphere better than many other movies of the time. Carnaby Street in its heyday, the clothes, the hairstyles, the bold Peter Max colors, the driving energy and excitement of the period are captured as if in a time capsule. The Austin Powers movies spoofed the same era but many years later, and similarly featured Michael York, this time as Basil Exposition.
Periodically, the girls sing bouncy songs by John Addison on the soundtrack. The tunes and lyrics are intentionally dumb (“I can’t sing but I’m young/Can’t do a thing but I’m young/I’m a fool, but I’m cool “), lampooning the often dopey pop songs of the time. The title tune might give you an ear worm for a few days. Not technically a musical, the movie doesn’t use the songs to advance the action but to add a feathery lightness to the proceedings.
Bonus materials on the unrated widescreen Blu-ray release include audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger and several theatrical trailers.
- Dennis Seuling