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 when Eddie says to him,“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 actually 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 this 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.