AVAILABLE ON DVD
RUNNING TIME: 87 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
On their father’s death, siblings Eli and Nellie Pledge inherit a pickle factory in Colne, in the north of England, but it’s soon the summer holiday, and the entire factory is closed down. Nellie and Eli go to Blackpool where Mrs Rowbottom the landlady of their boarding house run by landlady Mrs. Rowbottom, whose eyes light upon Eli. The womansising Ei, though, only has eyes for the younger Freda. Then Eli sees a chance to further his financial ambitions by marrying off Nellie to Vernon Smallpiece, a colleague in the pickling business, and decides to play matchmaker….
Having found On The Buses rather more amusing than I expected, I thought that I’d be laughing plentifully at Hammer’s next TV comedy spinoff, but Nearest And Dearest turned out to be something of an ordeal and I can’t say that I chuckled very often at all, except at the desperateness of it and the way that even the performances aren’t all that good, from Hylda Baker fluffing some of her lines to Jimmy Jewel acting out probably the most inept drunk scene I’ve ever seen. The opening sequence consists of Nellie getting out of a bus and leaving behind a package which a guy picks up and chases after her, replete with wolf whistles on the soundtrack. She’s oblivious to him and he has to pass it to her through the letterbox with such dialogue as “If you have anything for me, you’d better stick it through the letter box”. “It might be too big”. You know an old British comedy isn’t working when even the double entendres are poor. Eli is introduced with a buxom blonde whom he then strands in a carpark. Funny guy aye? Jewel seems to be going for a Sid James-style vibe throughout, even attempting his iconic laugh a few times, but he’s hopeless and I found the character just unpleasant rather than the lovable rogue presumably intended.
We soon get a load of supposed jokes about the fact that the Pledges’ father Joshua is dying, followed by his passing away which is apparently a recreation of something that happened in the first episode of the TV series. A funeral scene when some old man throws earth over Eli and Nellie instead of over Joshua’s body [ok, I might have laughed at that bit]. And then it’s all off to Blackpool. Romantic complictions soon ensure and there’s some reasonably well handled bedroom farce, but much of the second half concentrates on the romance between Nellie and Vernon and their ‘awkward’ act, something which is no doubt intended to be cute but which just gets tiresome very quickly. At least there’s an actual surprise in the last minute – though it would have worked far better if the event hadn’t taken place offscreen. Mostly this is dreary stuff. Pretty much all of the characters are paper thin and there’s little attempt to create truly funny situations. The TV series was hugely popular back in the day, but seeing the movie version hasn’t made me want to check it out at all.