The Bed-Sitting Room (1969)

I don’t know if The Bed-Sitting Room is absolutely unique, but it must be nearly so: a post-apocalypse comedy with a happy ending. And yes, the happy ending is totally absurd, but then again so is everything else in the film so the ending is perfectly appropriate. I’m always interested by filmed plays (and this is an example of one), because there’s always a tension involved: plays are written to be acted out in real time within a circumscribed space, and—by and large—films aren’t, so how do you translate the former into the latter? I can only assume that a lot of reworking had to be done here, cos—unlike most filmed plays—I can’t imagine how this would’ve worked on stage. It’s three or four years after a nuclear “misunderstanding” that lasted 2m28s (including the peace treaty), and the handful of survivors are getting on with things as best they can despite the fact that some of them are, frankly, mutating into other things, including the bed-sitting room of the title. The film hovers between celebrating the way that not even a nuclear holocaust can dampen the indomitable English spirit in its determination to carry on with life, and attacking the way said spirit seems to refuse to face up to the new reality of what’s left of the world. I’m not sure the film is entirely successful in making the bizarreness of its concepts work, and the film was a notorious bomb with audiences and, even less happily, the studio that released it (United Artists), but the fascinating cast (credited in order of height) give it their all and it has probably the best use of a quarry as a filming location outside of any Doctor Who story. I didn’t see the BFI Blu-Ray, just used it for illustration; I watched the Australian DVD which also includes Lester’s legendary Running Jumping Standing Still Film. Just a pity the print is barely watchable.

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