Saturday 25 May 2024

Adventures of a Taxi Driver (1976)

Adventures of a Taxi Driver was released in 1976 and was the first of the three “Adventures of” British sex comedies, inspired by the success of the “Confessions of” movies. In fact the formula is pretty much the same - the hapless hero finds that his job brings him into constant contact with sex-starved women, and despite being hapless the hero is also strangely attractive to women.

Producer, director and co-writer Stanley Long had by this time been in the exploitation movie business for a long time. He knew how to make movies with very limited budgets. In the 60s he had been mostly a producer but around 1970 he started directing as well.

Adventures of a Taxi Driver was made on a very small budget indeed (on 16mm) and was a huge box office hit.  Two more Adventures movies would follow.

There’s very little plot. Joe North (Barry Evans) is a London taxi driver. He lives with his mum (played by the great Diana Dors), his thieving kid brother Peter and his kid sister. Life at home is total chaos so Joe moves out. He moves in with his mate Tom (Robert Lindsay) and Tom’s stripper girlfriend Nikki (Judy Geeson).

Joe’s girlfriend Carol (Adrienne Posta) wants him to move in with her. In fact she wants to get married, an idea that terrifies Joe.

In the course of his job Joe has numerous sexual encounters with female fares, some of which end satisfactorily and some of which (in fact most of which) end up in disaster of some kind.

Big trouble is in store for Joe and this time none of it is his fault. Maybe he’s a bit too trusting.

Joe is good-natured, a bit cheeky, a bit cocky and in spite of his many misadventures very cheerful. He likes chasing women and frequently it’s the women doing the chasing. Barry Evans is perfectly cast - he has the charm and likeability to make it quite plausible that the female of the species would find him very desirable. Evans is certainly the film’s biggest asset.

Judy Geeson is very good of course (and although she’s playing a stripper she doesn’t take her clothes off). She’d been paired very successfully with Barry Evans in Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush in 1968 which probably explains her casting here. Diana Dors has great fun as Joe’s mum. The other cast members are generally competent enough. Look out for a cameo from Stephen Lewis, playing a character identical to the one he’d played in the massively popular On the Buses TV series. Also look out for Ian Lavender, better known as Private Pike in Dad’s Army.

It has been said that the problem with 70s British sex comedies is that they’re not sexy and they’re not funny. That’s somewhat unfair. These movies have been much maligned over the years. I quite enjoy them. Adventures of a Taxi Driver might not be hilarious but it is consistently amusing.

The other accusation levelled against these films has more weight. Of course one has to take account of British censorship. The fact that this incredibly innocuous movie got an X Certificate in Britain illustrates the craziness of British censorship. This movie is unbelievably tame. I don’t think censorship was entirely to blame - British film-makers, even British sexploitation film-makers, have never been comfortable with sex. One does get the impression when viewing this movie that Long’s approach to the nude scenes was let’s get them over with as quickly as possible.

If you compare this movie to an Italian sex comedy made at almost exactly the same time, Nello Rossati’s The Nurse (1975), the difference is striking. Rossati was clearly quite unembarrassed about shooting nude scenes. It’s also worth pointing out that the Italian film is much funnier.

This movie doesn’t rely on slapstick to the same extent as the Confessions movie. There was apparently a lot of last-minute improvisation.

Amusingly this movie was playing in Britain at the same time as Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver and Adventures of a Taxi Driver did much better business at the box office.

Adventures of a Taxi Driver is harmless fun. Recommended.

This movie is part of Powerhouse Indicator’s three-movie Adventures of Blu-Ray set. The movie was shot in 16mm so while the transfer is very good it’s not going to blow you away. The boxed set comes packed with extras.

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