Sunday, 31 March 2013

Britsploitation from A-Z: U is for The Ups and Downs of a Handyman (1976)

This A-Z wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention the kind of film that dominated British exploitation in the mid-70s.  I think of it as occupation-sexploitation: that cycle of films following various randy jack-the-lad types through their working life in a world full of sexually voracious housewives and their always-early-home-from-work husbands.  The job in question could be anything from a milkman to an architect, though the latter film’s actually called Confessions of a Sex Maniac in an attempt to make it sound more exciting.  It’s no relation to theConfessions films starring Robin Askwith, the best-known films of the kind.  Stanley Long’s series of Adventures films are probably the most entertaining, especially Adventures of a Private Eye, which knocks spots off most British sex comedies of the 70s.  The Ups and Downs of a Handyman is unfortunately much nearer the bottom of the barrel.
It’s another production of Kenneth F Rowles, who gave us Take an Easy Ride.  This one’s directed by someone called John Sealey, though.  The title role’s played by Barry Stokes, whose finest hour was probably playing a dog-nosed alien in Kenneth J Warren’s Prey.  Stokes also sings the title song – it’s horrible, and isn’t helped by his oddly mournful voice.  In fact all the music in the film’s horrible, the most prominent instruments being the saxophone and the banjo.  Films like this always need familiar TV faces as guest stars (if you can really have guest stars in a film).  Sadly the makers of Ups and Downs weren’t able to get the likes of Diana Dors or Jon Pertwee – the best they could manage is Benny Hill sidekick Bob Todd (as spanking obsessed Squire Bullsworthy) and Sue Lloyd, whom we last saw in Corruption (here credited simply as ‘Blonde’).  There’s also reputed Scots comedy genius Chic Murray as a busybody policeman, doing absolutely nothing to live up to that reputation.
The plot won’t take long to recount – newlyweds Bob and Margaretta (Stokes and Penny Meredith) are left a country cottage in Margaretta’s aunt’s will.  Unable to find any other work Bob sets himself up as a handyman to the local village folk.  His first call-out ends with a threesome in a bath and soon the rest of the village women (all of whom have extremely large breasts, of course) are requesting his services and seducing him with rubbish double entendres.  Here’s a sample of the quality of dialogue you get here:
‘I want you to put it up’
‘You what?!’
‘I want you to paint the ceiling’
‘Oh, I see…’
I think this is supposed to be funny, though most of the jokes are so pathetic that it’s not easy to tell whether they’re meant to raise a laugh or not.  Many of the sex scenes are also speeded up in that way that never fails to make things absolutely hilarious.
Bob’s driven to exhaustion by the sexual demands placed on him by the village wives and finds consolation with local prostitute Maisie (Gay Soper).  She reveals that while Bob’s helping out the women of the village their husbands are all visiting her, even the puritanical PC Knowles.  A montage sequence of Maisie seeing to the needs of local tradesman includes the film’s most startling image: A semi-naked butcher whipping her with a string of sausages.
Concerned by her husband’s seeming loss of sexual appetite, Margaretta employs another local handyman to take on some of Bob’s workload.  He’s played by lovely old Harold Bennett, Young Mr Grace from Are You Being Served? He’s not considered an adequate substitute by Bob’s voracious customers and Bob’s hauled up before the squire on charges of fraud or something.  None of it really makes any sense, and the whole load of sorry nonsense is somehow resolved when the squire installs Bob behind the bar of the local pub.  Bob Todd must have felt very much at home with the film’s climax, a big Benny Hill rip-off speeded up chase sequence.
Well, thank goodness that one’s over with.
If you really want to put yourself through it, here’s that agonising theme song in full:

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