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The Sandwich Man  [DVD]
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A look at London in the swinging 60s through the eyes of a humble sandwich board man (Michael Bentine). Throughout the course of the day he travels London and meets many different types of people played by top comedy names of the time including Alfie Bass, Terry-Thomas, Bernard Cribbins, Diana Dors, Wilfred Hyde-White, Warren Mitchell, Norman Wisdom and Ian Hendry.
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Being mid 40's, I can just recall Michael Bentine on TV when I was very young. These must have been repeats of his BBC shows 'It's a Square World' and whilst he appeared funny and weird, the material was, obviously, above me.
Now, on UK Gold, comes 1966's The Sandwich Man. As others have said, it's a time capsule of swinging London and its rainbow of colourful characters. From Dora Bryan to a real who's-who of every comic actor that even I'd heard of and have enjoyed and been brought up with. They're like an extended family!
Though many hang their heads in shame these days, the playful way that white actors played ethnics is a part of the package and it was FAR more innocent and affectionate than most folk ever realise. It's actually part of our television and film heritage, so enjoy and accept it for what it was THEN.
As my subject line says, the script definitely takes second fiddle, to the point where I wonder if there actually was one, or at least stuck to! And, the gags now have been so overdone and are so familiar through countless Carry On's and similar comic vehicles, that, really, they barely raise a titter these days. However, the idea of Bentine wearing a sandwich board and going round the locations, catching up with his friends is a good one and I have to admit, the Park scenes, toward the end, with the escaped sit-on mower was actually really funny and his final 'escape' will surprise you - it did me!
Still, I had fun watching it, looking out for the stars of yesterday and comparing a largely lost London with our society today.
The sandwich man walks around London, chatting to friends and making new friends and acquaintances en-route. His life is simple and friendly; his outlook seemingly care-free. His only real concern is his racing pigeon, which he hopes will win the latest race.
It is a nostalgic trip around London, in a time when things were just about to become busier and more cluttered, leaving the simple life far behind. Each of the sandwich man's encounters are small sub-plots, in the overall story and each character he meets has their own story. Michael Bentine's personality shines through as a gentleman, almost unfussed by the events he witnesses, as he makes his way around the city, carrying his sandwich boards. It makes no difference what he is advertising; the focus is upon the man, himself and the events and people he encounters.
I particularly enjoyed where he was being "measured up" for a new Rolls-Royce motor car, only for the salesman to find he wasn't really a potential customer at all, but had merely come to speak to yet another of his many friends. When asked about seating arrangements, it was witty and innocent, when he observed that he wouldn't be able to get his sandwich boards in the rear seat!
The sandwich man appears always to have a smile on his face, even in the face of danger and adversity, but this does not detract from how charming the story is and, to top it all, his pigeon wins the race and a huge party is held.
A lovely story, a wonderful cast, nostalgic views of London and an idea of simplicity and fun. Watch and enjoy. I did!
Follow the excellent Michael Bentine as he walks round the town advertising his wares watching on as accidents and mishaps occur around him. This film is well worked and not overly contrived with many faces from the time popping up in cameo performances.
Well worth a watch.