Are You Being Served? 

Dir: Bob Kellett, 1977

5/10

Throughout the 1970’s, it was common practice to make big screen versions of popular sitcoms. Love Thy Neighbour, Up Pompeii, Bless This House, On The Buses, Steptoe And Son, Dad’s Army…the list is endless.

Following that trend, Are You Being Served? made its way to the cinema after a very successful run of the stage play. Starring the cast of the series, the play ran for several months at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool and was used as the basis for the film.

The staff of Grace Brothers mens and ladies outfitters department, take their annual two week holiday to Spain.

The bigger budgets and longer running times, allowed the series to expand and venture out of the confinement of the traditional three walls and limited space. However, the budget didn’t stretch far enough to actually send them to Spain.

With movie adaptations, the more scope a production is allowed, the less it works. Are You Being Served? worked because of the restrictions placed on the show. Seldom did we see anywhere outside of the store. The action, primarily, took place on the shop floor or in Mr. Rumbold’s office.

In a thirty minute episode, the jokes and saucy humour worked in tandem with the low costs of the production. This presented the idea of fun, and not to be taken seriously.

Films such as this, are like paintings. To look at the Mona Lisa in a gallery, may be a wonderful work of art. But, if you enlarged the painting and brought it closer to your face, the imperfections would become evident. The canvas would be visible, the brush strokes clear and, even, small difference in the palette.

That’s how movie adaptations are. On a small screen in the corner of the room, Are You Being Served? is one of the funniest sitcoms the BBC has ever produced. Blown up to the big screen, not so much.

Written by the creators of the series, David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd, this movie adaptation smacks of laziness. So many jokes from the show, are recycled and extended, furthering the stale and tired feel. A reused “dear Sexy Knickers” joke, is one example.

You kind of suspect. that the whole premise was a quick money earner for the pair, and that no real thought went into it. They just trawled through previous scripts, pulled out a bunch of half decent jokes and padded the rest out with filler.

On stage, it would have been great. You have the cast live in front of you; the euphoric atmosphere, overriding any concerns about the unoriginality and rehashing of old material.

Yet, it’s hard not to like the film. The cast are amusing, with John Inman’s camp and effette Mr. Humphries being a highlight, as per the series.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Are You Being Served? without Mrs. Slocombe relating tales of her pussy, and Mr. Humphries gleefully exclaiming “I’m free!”.

Although largely forgettable, the film does have it’s moments and is okay to watch. Double it up with a Carry On… and you’ve got a pleasant time on a wet Sunday afternoon. There are worse adaptations out there.

Not great, but fair. The TV series is much better.

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