Bed-Sitting Room, The

Tagged: Film

Film (1969). Oscar Lewenstein/United Artists. Director Richard Lester. Cast includes Peter Cook, Michael Hordern, Roy Kinnear, Arthur Lowe, Spike Milligan, Dudley Moore, Ralph Richardson, Rita Tushingham and Mona Washbourne. Written by John Antrobus from the play by Antrobus and Milligan. 91 minutes. Colour.

The Bed-sitting Room is a Fabulation, a Post-Holocaust black comedy set mostly in London after World War Three, where dazed survivors wander about in a state of traumatized denial, at times seeming to pretend that nothing has happened, even when – in line with the film's surreal version of the nature of mutation (see Mutants) – some of them are transformed into wardrobes, bed-sitting rooms and parrots. The original play was a much-improvised piece of slapstick, and what remains of it occasionally clashes with chillingly bleak settings showing the realistic aftermath of an atomic war: the shattered dome of St Paul's Cathedral protruding from a swamp, a line of wrecked cars along a disembodied length of motorway, a grim landscape dominated by great piles of sludge and heaps of discarded boots, broken plates and false teeth. The film does gradually become more effective as it proceeds, however, the Satirical pot-shots of the stage version giving way to a vision of endurance in the ruins; and the large ensemble of familiar British actors doing turns morphs slowly into something like a lamenting chorus, though, in truth, with little hope that any lesson has been learned. [JB/PN/JC]

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