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Brenda de Banzie
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Murdoch Troon, an enthusiastic member of the local cycling club, gets involved with Charles Chingford, a local businessman, when the two of them are involved in an accident. Then Murdoch meets Chingford's daughter, Claire, who persuades him to give up the bicycle, buy a sports car, and learn to drive. At first he is horrified, but the thought of dating the attractive Claire, he relents, and takes his first driving lesson.Written by
Three cars - the large American car that Freddie's first girlfriend drives, Freddie's green Bentley ("The Fast Lady"), and the red sports car that Freddie's second girlfriend drives - all have their real white-on-black number plates covered up by the same white-on-red trade plates with the registration "616 H". Trade plates are used by the motor trade when driving vehicles which are untaxed, and the implication is that Freddie has been "borrowing" the cars and the trade plates from the garage where he works. See more »
During the car chase an old man (Clive Dunn) falls into the back seat of Chingford's Bentley between Freddie and Claire. He is never seen again in the film. See more »
Murdoch Troon is a young Scottish civil servant living somewhere in the south of England. (Probably Surrey, to judge from references to Guildford and Frensham in the script). Murdoch has fallen in love with Claire Chingford, the beautiful blonde daughter of a wealthy businessman. To impress Claire, who has told him that she is a sports- car enthusiast, Murdoch buys a vintage 1927 Bentley racing car. (The "Fast Lady" of the title is the name of the car. It is not a comment on Claire's morals). This leaves Murdoch with two problems. First, he cannot drive and needs to learn and pass his test within a week before his first date with Claire. Second, he must win over her autocratic and domineering old father who has taken a dislike to the young man.
The film is a mixture of romantic comedy and slapstick comedy and works better as the latter than as the former. The problem lies with the personality of Murdoch as played by Stanley Baxter (a popular comedian in Britain at this period). Baxter, himself a Scot, seems to be playing up to the common English stereotype of the Scotsman as dour, truculent and with a permanent chip on his shoulder. (Although Murdoch has chosen to live in England, he is forever complaining about the English). As a result, he comes across as too unsympathetic to be a very credible romantic hero; I wondered just what Claire saw in him and found it all too easy to understand why Commander Chingford disliked him so much.
On the other hand, Baxter's personality seemed just right for the slapstick elements in the film, chiefly the driving sequences, as these are all based around the idea that Murdoch, despite (or possibly because of) his inexperience becomes an aggressive maniac whenever he gets behind the wheel of a car. His lessons, his excursions with Chingford (an experienced driver) and his driving test all prove disastrous, and I must admit that these parts of the film were quite amusing.
There are good supporting performances from James Robertson Justice as Chingford and Leslie Phillips as Murdoch's friend Freddie Fox, a used car salesman. (It is Fox who sells him The Fast Lady). These two actors mostly appeared in comedy with a fairly limited range; Justice specialised in playing imperious, portly, middle-aged members of the English upper or upper-middle classes. (He is perhaps best remembered as the surgeon Sir Lancelot Spratt in the "Doctor" comedies). Phillips, although he was not particularly handsome, specialised in playing smoothly lecherous seducers, often dressed in blazer and slacks and affecting a pseudo-posh accent. Both men are cast very much according to type here; Chingford is a typical Justice character, and Fox, generally dressed in blazer and slacks, appears with a different girl on his arm in virtually every scene. The lovely Julie Christie does not have a lot to do, but then she is a sort of human McGuffin, the reason why Murdoch is putting himself through so many trials and tribulations rather than a character in her own right. (This was only Christie's second film; her first "Crooks Anonymous" was also directed by Ken Annakin and also starred Baxter, Justice and Phillips).
One thing which does not ring true is that Murdoch is living in "digs" with a landlady and yet is able to buy The Fast Lady in cash for £500, several months' wages for the average earner in 1962, without needing to take out a loan or obtain hire-purchase terms. Anyone with that amount of ready cash at this period would have been able to rent a decent flat or put a deposit down on a house.
The film appears to have been a box-office success when first released, but today it looks rather dated. For some, of course, this will be part of its charm as it offers us a nostalgic look at the Britain of more than fifty years ago. To the modern viewer the other cars featured here, such as an Austin A40, look even more old-fashioned than The Fast Lady (only 35 years old at the time) would have done in 1962. The film's main weakness is its inability to combine its romantic and comic elements into a unified whole, but I suspect that the "Top Gear"-watching classes will love it in spite of this. 6/10
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