DOC’S JOURNEY INTO HAMMER FILMS #117: LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR [1972]

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Directed by:
Written by: ,
Starring: , , ,

 

UK

AVAILABLE ON DVD

RUNNING TIME: 85 mins

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic

 

White Eddie and Joan Booth live next door to black Bill and Barbie Reynolds. Whilst Joan and Barbie are best friends as well as neighbours, Bill and Eddie are always at odds, largely due to Eddie’s racist insults. Joan and Barbie enter a ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ competition to win a cruise, but are unsure how to get around the problem of their antagonistic husbands. To add to the problems Joan’s mother in law is coming to stay, Barbie has her father in law Coming from Trinidad, and Bill and Eddie want to go to see a striptease act….

Much like the TV series of the same name, Love Thy Neighbour is no doubt considered racist today by the powers that be, and indeed if anyone tried to make it now the makers would probably be lynched. But is it actually racist? Well, Eddie does continually call Bill names like “sambo”, “nig-nog” and “choc ice” which no right thinking person ought to utter today even though were probably quite commonly used in the 70’s. However, think about it. Bill usually gets the better of his bigoted neighbour, and is quite clearly presented as the smarter, nicer person whom we laugh with at a time when most black characters on TV were laughed at. The script sometimes raises ignorant ideas that many had about black people and mocks them, such as Bill’s response to Eddie saying to him things like “I was making lynch pins while you were still eating missionaries” being to pretend to be a primitive tribesman along with his fellow black colleagues and cook Eddie in a pot. But of course in today’s ridiculously sensitive times you couldn’t have such a scene. Such daftness is everywhere now. I found it very silly, for example, that the original version of It had one of the bullies use the word “n****r“, while the remake omitted the term, even though it would have been something that the character who uttered the word would have said. And it’s less the fault of the filmmakers than the way many people are today.

As a comedy Love Thy Neighbour, which begins very oddly with various neighbours at war and even vandalising the houses of others, is mostly mildly amusing and nothing more, though there’s a very funny end joke in which Eddie discovers that he’s related to the person he constantly insults. Ignorant Eddie can’t succeed in anything from getting on a bus to managing a strike, but his rudeness is paralleled by the way Joan and Barbie get on, and by the way Joan’s mother in law and Barbie’s father in law – who are very cute together – start seeing each other, though have to do it secretly. Rather lazily, some of the situations are rehashed from the TV series which wouldn’t have pleased many cinema goers who went to see it. The arguments eventually become tiresome despite Jack Smethurst and Rudolph Walker both being very good, while the film also looks rather tatty and peters off a bit in its final third. And I did wish that Bill’s verbal comebacks were as strong as what was thrown at him. Overall a minor comedy, but one which does have some worthwhile things to say about racial attitudes despite its reputation to the contrary.

Rating: ★★★★★½☆☆☆☆

Dr Lenera
About Dr Lenera 2102 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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