Friday, 2 August 2013

DVD Review: The Lovers! (1973)

Spin offs from 70s TV comedy shows tended to have two things in common: they were invariably produced by the Hammer studio, and the plot often involved the characters going on holiday, with hilarious results. This 1973 feature version of the often overlooked hit The Lovers bucks that trend by being produced by British Lion, the studio behind The Wicker Man and Goodbye Gemini, and having a plot which basically encapsulates the series formula into just under 90 mins.
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Eschewing the canon of the TV series (which ran 13 episodes), the film version follows our unlikely lovebirds from their first awkward meeting. Geoffrey (Richard Beckinsale), the Manchester United loving bank clerk hooks up with romantically minded but hesitant Beryl (Paula Wilcox) more by accident than design. The plot, such much as it is, revolves around the pair's off and on relationship, his per-occupation with wanting to join the permissive society, and her more traditional desire for wedding bells and family life. As per the TV version, Geoffrey's advances, as naive and clumsy as they are, are met with a firm N-O spells no! This was the show which brought the term 'Percy Filth' into the lexicon of at least my upbringing.
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The TV version doesn't get wheeled out as often as other sit-coms of the time, certainly nowhere  near as much as Beckinsale's big hit, Porridge, so the material isn't as over familiar. So, even though the look of the film has dated somewhat it is still an amusing look at the trials and tribulations of dating. A plus factor, at least for someone like myself who lives in the town, is the wonderful location footage of Manchester in the early 70s. From the opening scene set outside The George Best Boutique, to the old GM bus colour scheme, Albert Square and the Piccadilly Hotel, this is a Manchester I barely remember but still seems familiar. Football fans (there must be some somewhere I guess) may get a kick (ha!) out of seeing the Old Trafford ground before the corporates took over. Without going over the top, the film manages to poke fun at both the permissive attitudes and the "groovy man" crowd; a brilliant scene has Geoffrey try 'grass' for the first time, only to be made even more sick when he's informed it actually was just grass!
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The playfulness (and pain) of 'courting' is suitably shown. The pair 'just happen' to be at the same places and so much rings true without being heavy handed or slapstick, thanks to Jack Rosenthal's wonderful script. Beckinsale and Wilcox are wonderful, playing characters they obviously had gotten used to, and the pair's natural likability helps a great deal.
As an interesting footnote, it's directed by Herbert Wise, who made the infamous TV version of The Woman In Black for ITV.
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The Lovers! has been released by the good people of Network DVD as part of their The British Film series and is a worthy addition to any collection, whether you are familiar with the TV show or not (although they also have that in their catalog too should you wish to try it). Without resorting to the Percy Filth or bawdiness to sell the picture, this good-natured film is certainly worth a look.
8 out of 10


  1. It is great to see that this movie is on DVD. I was part of the crowd scenes in the movie when it was shot at Old Trafford and I am actually in the last scene when the camera closes in on Richard and Paula at Old Trafford

    1. Excellent! What a great story, thanks for the comment!