Go To Blazes

British comedy of the 1960s has a certain shine that never seems to dull with age; in short, it’s utterly timeless. Go To Blazes has been described by numerous critics as a “lost gem”, but is it really a sparkling diamond of that bygone era?

Diamonds. Everybody wants ’em, so it’s absolutely no surprise that Bernard (King), Harry (Massey) and Alfie (Rossington) will do absolutely anything to get their mitts on some. Sadly for this bunch of inept crooks, however, they’re not all that good at crime. In fact, they’ve been picked up by the police on numerous occasions and so it comes as no surprise when, during a botched jewelery store heist, the three are shipped off to prison once again. However, on the journey the they watch agog as a fire engine zooms through traffic with ease. And it’s then that they begin to form a dastardly plan…

Acquire a fire engine. Conduct a robbery. Use the perfect getaway vehicle and zoom through traffic to guaranteed safety, freedom and untold riches. What could go wrong? Lots. Lots could go wrong. For starters, everybody keeps mistaking them for GENUINE firemen which, of course, points out the major flaw in the plan; to act like firemen, they have to become firemen. The group decide that they really need to take on some proper training if they are to use the engine. Cue mayhem, mishap, comedic misunderstandings and an unexpected tryst with a very young Maggie Smith.

In short, this is a typical British crime caper. It’s clear that the director is attempting to emulate successful crime comedies such as The Ladykillers but, sadly, Go To Blazes lacks the tight plot and in-depth character development of its predecessors. Predictable and sprawling, with the plot taking a very long time to establish itself, an eighty minute film has never felt so long before. However, we do get something fun, fluffy and light-hearted; Go To Blazes, despite its shortcomings, may very well be the ultimate remedy for chasing away those modern-day blues.

The interplay and chemistry between the three stooges is, in a word, superb; we have Dave King as the incorrigible leader, Norman Rossington as the lovable idiot and Daniel Massey as the effortlessly charming Harry. With a finer script, the men could have worked absolute wonders but, even with the sometimes overworked dialogue, manage to remain utterly endearing to the very end. Somewhere around the middle of the film we meet Robert Morley, a disgraced ex-fire captain, and it is with his additional comedic input that the film goes from “so-so” to spectacularly funny.

And, of course, Maggie Smith fans are in for a rare treat; she displays impeccable timing, a fantastic nose for comic acting and always enticing sex appe… wait, what? Maggie Smith? Sexy? SEXY?! We’re so used to seeing her as the distinguished older woman (Harry Potter, Ladies In Lavender, Downton Abbey) that it’s easy to forget that she was once a beautiful young starlet. You may just fall in love with her as she navigates her way through her perfected Cockney and French accents. I certainly did.

In short, this film may not live up to some expectations; the humour is sometimes dated, a dash of casual racism hovers waiting to offend, the story takes a while to get moving and the predictable outcome may irk some. However, for fans of vintage comedy, this truly is well-worth a gander (if only for a gander at young Maggie!). Wonderfully choreographed chase scenes and comedic routines allow for 1960s London to pop off the screen in wildly vibrant technicolour, making this an utterly dazzling period piece. Although those hoping to laugh until their bellies hurt may have to look elsewhere, as a visual treat for fans of times gone by Go To Blazes is a must-see.

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