Looking at a just-watched but rather old comedy film today. Released at the tail end of 1970, “The Rise And Rise Of Michael Rimmer” was directed by Kevin Billington (“Reflections”, “Voices”) and devised by David Frost (“Futtocks End”, “That Was The Week That Was”).
Michael Rimmer (Peter Cook – “Bedazzled”, “Monte Carlo Or Bust!”) walks into Fairburn Advertising Design Services, a badly performing advertising agency, one day and introduces himself to the manager, Ferret (Arthur Lowe – “Dad’s Army”, The Lady Vanishes”), as being from “co-ordination”.
Ferret clearly has no idea who he is, and is rather more interested in his voluptuous secretary Tanya (Valerie Leon – “Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb”, “The Spy Who Loved Me”) to take much notice anyway.
Ferret and his colleagues, including ballroom dancing enthusiast Pumer (John Cleese – “Monty Python & The Holy Grail”, “Die Another Day”), assume that Rimmer must be conducting a time and motion study and all try desperately to look busy whenever he appears.
When Rimmer reports to the company’s owner Fairburn (Dennis Price – “School For Soundrels”, “Tower Of Evil”) – who also seems unsure of who Rimmer is or what he’s doing – he manages to get Ferret demoted and steadily begins to take control of the company.
Enlisting the aid of Peter Niss (Denholm Elliott – “The Vault Of Horror”, “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”) from a rival company, Rimmer turns the business into a wildly successful polling company, and makes numerous TV appearances as a polling expert.
Moving into politics he advises the Tory leader of the opposition, Tom Hutchinson (Ronald Fraser – “The Wild Geese”, “Scandal”) before becoming an MP himself. With the General Election approaching and an eye on the job of Prime Minister, Rimmer sets about marrying showjumper Patricia Cartwright (Vanessa Howard – “Some Girls Do”, “Corruption”), one of the most popular ladies in the country – according to his polls – to cement his position. But just how far is Rimmer prepared to go?…
Written by Cook, Cleese, Billington and Graham Chapman (who also appears in the film as an executive from a humbug manufacturer) the film was ready for release in 1969 but held back until after the 1970 General Election which ironically mirrored the movie in having a surprise victory for the Tory party – how much better would it have been for the film to hit the streets prior to that election?!
There are some very funny moments in the film, some rather risqué ones (such as Lowe’s opening scene with Leon and Rimmer’s new ad campaign for the humbugs), and some nice in-jokes (a Nazi swastika on a file behind “Dad’s Army” star Lowe and Rimmer’s constituency being called Budleigh Moor, surely a reference to Cook’s long-term comedy partner Dudley Moore).
The film could also be viewed as somewhat prophetic too in the way it portrays the cynical nature of modern politics where image and presentation are more important that policy and content.
Lowe is brilliant in his role, particularly funny when drunk, and most of the cast do a decent enough job, though Cook himself seems rather wooden. Nonetheless there’s enough here to keep you entertained for an hour and a half. Overall, I’d say that this is an under appreciated gem…