Saturday 30 April 2016

Not so bad apples... Rotten to the Core (1965)

It’s hard not to warm to a Boulting Brothers film especially one so chock-full of silver age talent, most sadly lost, but others still very much with us and acting up a storm (take a bow Charlotte Rampling).

Rotten to the Core could fairly be described as a caper movie and one of a number riding that post Great Train Robbery sense of mixed feelings… freedom and license are two very different things and most films took the “spirit” as far as they could whilst operating within accepted morality… “hang on: I’ve got an idea…”

Charlotte Rampling and those electric eyes
Directed by John and produced/written by Roy – with some pals – the film starts with three crooks hanging on for the loot at the end of their porridge.  Dudley Sutton is Jelly Knight (geddit!?), Kenneth Griffith as Lenny the Dip and James Beckett is Scapa Flood who are chewing on the thin end of 18 months for robbery. They sing un-enthusiastically as part of the prison choir whilst passing around a suspicious cigarette (really, in 1965?) which is shared by one of the screws.

They seem pretty hapless before their parole board but they have high hopes of getting their un-just deserts after they have been re-united with their boss and criminal mastermind, The Duke or to give his full moniker, Randolph Berkeley-Greene (Anton Rodgers).  But on being greeted by his lady friend, Sara Capell (Charlotte Rampling), they find out that he has passed away with their loot lost with him.

Griffith, Sutton and Beckett
It’s sad but they have been left one last job as a gift – a bank heist that involves their blowing their way into a vault that turns out to be a police station! They manage to escape without necessarily agreeing that The Duke had set them up for a quick return to clink.

There’s more to this than meets the eye… and in this case a private eye, former plod William Hunt (Eric Sykes) who is recruited by Sara’s father Sir Henry Capell (the eternally brilliant Peter Vaughan – who has just turned 93!) to make sure she is not falling in with a bad crowd. It’s a bit late for that as we see her gallivanting about in bra and scanties with first The Duke and then military man, Lt. Percy Vine (Ian Bannen).

Charlotte Rampling and Anton Rodgers
Lt Vine is low on charm and smarts and is being used as an in for The Duke’s latest plan… as he romances Sara, the three stooges, having worked out that she may know more than she’s telling, arrive past a familiar-looking road cleaner… yes it’s PC turned PI, William Hunt merging skilfully into the background to observe his target.

The boys knock on Sara’s door and as she tries to get rid of her military mug they spot details of the Hope Springs Nature Clinic and, whilst adding up isn’t really their forte, they still work out it’s where they’ll find the Duke.

Unwelcome guests
Meanwhile Hunt disguises himself as an Indian raja advertising a new restaurant. He follows Sara to the underground but his bulky disguise slows him down and by the time he’s ditched it, she gets rid of him by accusing him of assault… strewth not Eric Sykes as well!? Only in the film dear reader…

Eric and Charlotte - inapprorpiate on the Tube?
All converge on the dodgy Nature Clinic where the Duke has all kinds of elaborately-monickered hoods looking after the inmates by plying them with spring water mixed with pure gin… no wonder they’re all so happy.

The three new arrivals want in on the action and after the Duke makes them, literally, sweat on his good favour and has his accomplice, Countess de Wett (Avis Bunnage) test them for IQ (they have none) they are briefed by Anxious O'Toole (Victor Maddern).

The Duke briefs the team
It’s an audacious plan to steal the payroll from the local army base, and everything has been planned down to the very last detail… Meanwhile Hunt is questioned by the proper police led by Thorley Walters as Chief Constable Preston… the clueless cops begin to get the scent…

Now things get really complicated as the army is due a ceremonial visit from a German general at the same time the payroll is due. All looks doomed until Duke comes up with another fool-proof innovation: he will impersonate the general and distract the army long enough for the original plan to come off…

Ian and Charlotte
Dusty verdict: Events proceed thick and fast and Anton Rodgers does his best to do a Peter Sellers/Alec Guinness in multiple roles.The three un-wise men are well played by the excellent Dudley Sutton and Kenneth Griffith in particular whilst Ian Bannen pumps up the pomposity to full volume.

Victor Maddern,Anton Rodgers and Avis Bunnage
It’s interesting – on a number of levels – to see such a young Charlotte Rampling. Everyone has to start out somewhere and this richly-talented, multi-layered actor shows she can do funny as well.

It’s neither great of laugh-out loud hilarious but Rotten to the Core is still entertaining enough for a rainy spring afternoon’s viewing.

Ian Bannen and Charlotte Rampling
It’s available from Network on budget DVD – either direct or from Amazon or Movie Mail.

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