Monday, 5 June 2023
Keep It Up Downstairs (1976)
In the 1970s the British film industry was on life support. Without the sex comedy boom of that decade the industry would probably have gone under entirely. Whether you liked them or not, they kept studios running, they kept crews in work and they helped to keep at least a few movie theatres open. They were an unavoidable necessity.
But that meant nothing to critics. British film critics in that era were particularly prone to pompousness, primness and snobbery. They saw these sex comedies as entertainment for the lower orders and there was nothing they despised more than popular taste.
Since that time most people have taken the same attitude towards these movies. When you read online reviews it’s usually obvious that the reviewer has already decided the movies is junk before even seeing it, and the review is nothing more than an opportunity for cheap fashionable snarkiness.
If however you approach these movies with an open mind you might be surprised. Many of them are actually a lot of fun. Yes, the humour is sexual. That’s why they were called sex comedies. Yes, there’s plenty of nudity. That’s also why they were called sex comedies. The humour is often very broad, but there’s only one criterion by which to judge comedy - is it funny? And Keep It Up Downstairs is actually very funny.
There’s great consternation at Cockshute Towers (and it’s pronounced Coe-Shoot). The palatial country house of the Earl of Cockshute (Mark Singleton) is about to pass into the hands of a crass but rich upstart named Snotty Shuttleworth (William Rushton). Even more horrifyingly, he’s a rich Australian. He holds the mortgages on the estate and he’s about to foreclose.
The family and the staff are equally aghast and they join forces to thwart Snotty’s plans.
One option would be to find a rich heiress for the Earl’s son Peregrine (Jack Wild) to marry. Peregrine is a nice boy but he’s the 1904 equivalent of a nerd. Finding an heiress prepared to marry such an odd young man will be a challenge. There are other options, but they’re either even more unpalatable or even more impractical.
What nobody realises is that there’s a solution already to hand. Peregrine is an amateur scientist and inventor and he’s been doing some experiments with an interesting new rubber compound. This compound is incredibly thin but very tough, it’s waterproof, it’s flexible and it expands. If you make a rubber sheath out of it the sheath will fit itself exactly to the object being sheathed and if the object expands the sheath expands with it. Peregrine is excited by his discovery but he cannot think of any practical use for it. The lad has led a sheltered life.
In the meantime plans are hatched to marry Peregrine off to an American oil heiress, Betsy Ann Dureneck (Seretta Wilson).
Best Ann and her parents arrive and the Cockshute family’s butler, Hampton, gets a shock. Daisy Dureneck (Diana Dors) is an old flame of his, a former actress.
Hampton hatches a plan to serve the Cockshute family’s problems by means of a jewel robbery.
The plot becomes increasingly farcical, with definite bedroom farce overtones.
When they’re not making plans to rescue the family’s fortunes both the family members and the staff spend most of their time engaging in a bewildering series of sexual adventures. The Earl’s beautiful young wife (who is Peregrine’s stepmother) is sleeping with the butler. The Earl is sleeping with both the maids, Mimi (Françoise Pascal) and Polly (Mary Millington). Both maids are also sleeping with Hampton. The footman is sleeping with just about every female in the household. The Earl’s daughter Kitty (Olivia Munday sleeps with anyone she can find.
And Betsy Ann’s loud American oil millionaire father joins in and is soon in hot pursuit of both Lady Cockshute and the two housemaids.
The gags can certainly be groan-inducing but that adds to the charm. And there are plenty of genuinely funny moments, even laugh-out-loud funny moments.
As far as nudity and sex is concerned this movie is very tame. There are lots of bare breasts, a few naked female bottoms and one blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment of frontal nudity. This movie has the cheeky innocent naughtiness of the Carry On movies. It’s basically a very good-natured movie. All the characters are sex-crazed but none are malicious.
Network in the UK have released this movie on DVD and Blu-Ray. The DVD is cheap, it’s barebones and it’s a nice transfer.
Keep It Up Downstairs is silly mildly sexy fun. I enjoyed it. Recommended.