Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. United Kingdom, 1977. Woodfall Film Productions. Screen story by Tony Richardson, Screenplay by Allan Scott, Chris Bryant, based on the novel by Henry Fielding. Cinematography by David Watkin. Produced by Neil Hartley. Music by John Addison. Production Design by Michael Annals. Costume Design by Michael Annals. Film Editing by Thom Noble. Golden Globe Awards 1977.
Tony Richardson follows his Oscar winning Tom Jones with another Fielding adaptation fourteen years later. Written by the author as a satirical piece meant to capitalize on the success of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, the hopelessly wry story has Pamela’s brother Joseph Andrews (played by a dewy young Peter Firth) working as a footman to the lusty Lady Booby (an oddly cast but appealing Ann-Margret) until her sexual advances prompt him out into the world for a bawdy, picaresque adventure. Andrews survives more than his fair share of lascivicious women (including a hilarious Beryl Reid as the desperate Mrs. Slipslop), aided by his faithful friend Parson Adams (Michael Hordern) always on hand to get him out of trouble with the law, their mission to place Joseph back in the arms of the lovely Fanny (Natalie Ogle) who has a few near misses with predatory men of her own. Richardson faithfully brings Fielding’s spontaneous humour to life while placing heavy emphasis on the generally unsavoury aspects of eighteenth century British life (so many strange rashes hidden by far too much powder). The more permissive era of cinema that this one was released under, when compared to the tamer days of Tom Jones’s early sixties, means that there’s far more emphasis on naughty indulgence and less on erotic wit, making for a fun but frothy cross between English literature and bad Italian sex comedy. Devoid of any of the substance that made the previous film so timeless, it does at least move at a brisk pace and is often very funny, among its many cameos a hilarious John Gielgud as an inaccurate surgeon brandishing a giant saw.