Dir: Russell Mulcahy, 1979
After seeing the recent BBC Four documentary on Peter Cook, I felt it’d be interesting to review Cook and his comedy partner’s, Dudley Moore, final recording as their toilet attendant alter ego’s, Derek and Clive.
A lot has been said about the relationship between Cook and Moore in their latter years, with an emphasis on Cook being resentful of Moore becoming a hit in America, with films like 10 and Arthur.
From the early days at the BBC with their TV series Not Only…But Also, the characters Pete and Dud and the film Bedazzled, the duo were cemented as one of the finest double acts Britain has ever produced.
But, focus is placed on the alleged animosity that developed between the two friends and much is spoken of Cook living in a bitter world, feeling that he got a raw deal while Moore prospered.
Adding fuel to the fire (or, maybe, even starting it) is Derek and Clive Get the Horn, a semi-documentary of the pair recording Derek and Clive Ad Nauseum.
Often viewed as a documentation of the duo’s personal and professional relationship collapsing, the film is also an insight into how the genius mind of Peter Cook works.
Much emphasis is on the claim that Cook used the album to deride and belittle Moore, subjecting him to an eternal onslaught of verbal abuse, tinged with malice.
Derek and Clive were the explicit versions of Pete and Dud. Unscripted, the recordings were a shocking, blasphemous, offensive, vile and abhorrent stream of ad-libs.
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is off limits. Even if you don’t get offended, easily, there’s a good chance you’ll find something in here.
Whether it’s the talk of getting an erection over the dead body of the pope or the never ending string of “fucks” and “cunts”, there is something, here, to offend everyone.
Creating Derek and Clive, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, quite possibly, bore the comedy genre of acerbic wit, with it’s no hold barred style and mordant humour.
Comedians of today, are aping this style of comedy with stand up comics like Jimmy Carr, Frankie Boyle and Jim Jefferies all taking a leaf out of this pairs book.
There is no doubt that what is in display is pure intelligence by two brilliant minds, with Cook being highly articulate and an excellent wordsmith.
But, rummaging through all the filth and venomous diatribes, is there hidden gold? Sadly, the answer is no.
Abrasive and caustic humour, has a worthy place alongside all other styles of comedy, whether it be the slapstick of Laurel and Hardy, the family friendly Victor Jorge or the blueness of Roy “Chubby” Brown and Jim Davidson.
Here, however, it just doesn’t work. At times, it comes over as embarrassing and the shocking nature of what is being said, just doesn’t tickle the funny bone.
Repeating “fucking cunt” to what is, practically, on a loop, does not a good comedy make. To be shocking purely for the sake of it, doesn’t exude something funny, and becomes tiresome very quickly.
The movie lacks any real laughs and that is so disappointing as the two talents are capable of much, much more.
Derek and Clive Get the Horn cannot be dismissed, as it had an important role in bringing out what was only said behind closed doors, as the joke about the aristocrats, proved.
You have to ask, is what we’re seeing and hearing about, a fair representation of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore?
The truth is, we’ll never really know and have to rely on the words of those who were closest to him.
But, those words paint a very different picture to what is depicted and talked about. Cook’s wife, Lin, asserts that the Cook and Moore were still close, right up to the end of Cook’s life in 1995. Moore attended the funeral and played the piano in honour of one of their old sketches, after reminiscing fondly about his late friend.
In 2004, Channel 4 broadcast a comedy/drama of the pair’s relationship, called Not Only But Always. Written by Terry Johnson, the program centred on Cook’s bullying of Moore because of his recent success.
Taking into account Lin’s insistence that both comedy performers were very good friends, you have to doubt the veracity of Johnson’s script.
If you doubt that, then you have to doubt the truthfulness of the reports, or analysis, concerning Derek and Clive Get the Horn.
Peter Cook intended the film to be released in UK cinemas but, in what is surely a contender for the top ten most ridiculous decisions they’ve ever made, the BBFC rejected it a certificate, therefore banning the film. This is despite, the record, being freely available in UK shops.
It was a futile course of action and one that, hopefully, the board hang their heads in embarrassment over.
Cook then released it on video in the early eighties, at the height of the video boom. Unfortunately, chief constable of Greater Manchester police, James Anderton. Known in the press as “God’s Copper”, Anderton seized all copies of the video, effectively sustaining the ban.
Thankfully, however, in 1993 the board relented and issued the video with an uncut ’18’ certificate.
Derek and Clive Get the Horn is a curiosity piece, and worth a look just to see how offensive two pantheons of comedy can get, without the reins of the BBC.
A minor interest.