There’s more to 1970s Brit-smut than the Confessions films. What more there is, however, is usually pretty similar in tone. Adventures Of A Plumber’s Mate – the stopcock on Stanley A. Long’s Britsploitation trilogy, which opened with Adventures of A Taxi Driver in 1976- is a bit confused as to what it is trying to achieve.
The higher-budget Adventures Of A Private Eye (which featured a brighter bunch of UK acting luminaries including Jon Pertwee and Harry H. Corbett) monkeyed about a little with the bloke-shagging-bored-housewives formula, and seems to have been a humbling experience for Long; Plumber’s Mate returns us –initially, at least- to very familiar low-budget shenanigans…
Sid South (Christopher Neill) is a young jobbing plumber whose assignments land him in bed, hot water and even handcuffs with a series of dopey – and usually married – ‘dolly-birds’ who are as lightly attached to their flimsy garments as a fridge is to a lick-stuck note. Driving his cheesy motorbike away from his latest dumped conquest, her one-piece dress snags on the bike to entirely disrobe the actress in question.
Sid’s next job finds him handcuffed in a compromising position with the kinky wife (Prudence Drage) of a violent thug who is on his way back home from a year in prison for GBH. After dragging the bedstead down to where the keys are, Sid escapes and takes with him the toilet seat he has just replaced in kinky-wife’s house. Trouble is, it’s actually made of painted gold – the reformed fruit of a heist, and hubby is not too pleased to find it missing.
Pressed to recover the gold bog-seat, our Sid finally sees off the gangsters when they realise that the man who bought it from the pawn-shop is a police inspector, and this particular tale of underworld skulduggery gives place to another – Sid’s effort to raise £900 to pay off the bookie who is threatening to let henchman Blackie (the always-reliable Arthur Mullard) break his legs.
At this point, Adventures Of A Plumber’s Mate becomes Adventures Of A Crap Criminal for pretty much the remainder of the film, as a desperate Sid turns to local crime-lord ‘Dodger’ – William Rushton, making more of his material than it deserves – in search of a caper that will pay off his persecutors by Saturday…
Plumber’s Mate has neither the picaresque charm of the more gormless Confessions films nor the commitment of a ‘real’ crime drama (or even a straightforward comedy), and its tone wavers as wildly as its plotting. The first ‘gangster’ plot is clearly nothing but a setup to eventually rescue Sid from his persecutors at the end of his criminal misadventures, which at one point find him at an orgy with Anna Quayle’s awful American accent and a sex-doll obsessed Christopher Biggins. Far more importantly, the requisite light comic touch is often lacking…
The scene where Sid visits Blackie’s previous – plaster-bound- ‘client’ in hospital contains some inadvertent torture that would be hilarious under the direction of Peter Rogers, but comes off here more as a scene in a horror film. The dark cinematography and alarming editing don’t help either.
Neither does the music. Central protagonist Christopher Neill also provided the title theme for Plumber’s Mate, which is effectively re-worked into a very poignant score that totally undermines the film’s comedic intent. It’s all a bit dark and depressing for a sex-comedy, and you begin to wonder if Malcolm McDowell is going to show up at some point and put the boot in.
The acting ability of the women in 70s sex-comedies is generally proportionate to how dressed they are, and Plumber’s Mate uncovers a bevy of fetching but wooden dalliances (in particular the four tennis-playing actresses in the shower-room scene, who are given far more dialogue than their abilities can carry). The only notable surprise in this regard is an over-sized turn from well-known TV-comedy ‘fat woman’ Clare Davenport, who appears as a topless masseuse, ruthlessly duffing up useless amateur-blackmailer Sid South in a scene that will poke your eyes plain out.
But the nude scenes in the film are few and fairly far apart, separated by the tale of Sid’s grim financial woes (on top of everything else, he’s being evicted for non-payment of rent), and most of the faux-sexy content is to be found in the fairly misleading trailer for the film on the DVD extras. Amusingly, this trailer –besides promising almost entirely a different kind of film – promises that Plumber’s Mate will cheer you up.
Well, it delivers on that promise only in the lamentably few scenes where On The Buses actor Steven Lewis appears as Sid’s guvnor. Lewis’s character is named ‘Mr. Crapper’ (and he is indeed usually found on the toilet), but it’s basically Blakey, Hitler-moustache and all, and this film needed far more of him.
Christopher Neill brought his cash-strapped mate Elaine Paige into Plumber’s Mate in the non-nude role of Susie, the barmaid that Sid South clearly has managed to generate an iota of genuine feeling for. Three months later Paige was famous as Evita, and tried unsuccessfully to get her name excised from the credits of this, her first acting role. Director Stanley Long takes an oblique bit of revenge on her in his sparse and slightly tired commentary track. The other extras include long trailers for the other two Adventures films and a pretty good photo-gallery.
If you’re looking for acres of naked seventies female flesh, you’ll get it – so long as you keep your spare hand poised over the fast-forward button. If you’re looking for Blakey, don’t blink too much. If you’re looking for a good laugh – forget it.
The Adventures Trilogy is released on 22nd May.