Looking like the love child of Leonard Rossiter and Bob Monkhouse, our hero Sammy “Lee” Leeman struts and steps around the streets of sixties London Soho. He’s a fast talking, quick thinking, two bit hustler with his brain on the game two paces before it’s happened, Sammy is a wheeler and a dealer. One minute flush with cash, the next minute, totally skint.
Cheeky chappy Sammy Lee (Anthony Newley) works as a compère in a strip club, introducing the sexy girls whilst ribbing and rallying up the guys for each show. A host of beautiful ladies dance around in various ridiculous reenactments of historical events, slowly revealing a little more for the punters. Getting teasingly close to that tantalising money shot just as the curtain comes crashing down and stopping the club for breaking the indecency law. Then out pops Sammy to usher out the customers whilst trying to win them back for the next performance.
Sammy Lee – “Good afternoon, gentlemen, and welcome to the Peepshow Club. And you’re welcome to it…… We’ve got a wonderful show here for you today so I want you to forget about the wife and make yourselves comfortable; not too comfortable there, Sir, thank you. We were raided last week!.”
Now Sammy’s problem is, he has managed to tally up a big debt with a local gangster whilst playing cards. Now that gangster gave him plenty of time to source this cash but stupidly let it slide. Now he wants it and he sends in the heavies to acquire it or else he has to unleash some pain down on him. Sammy manages to sweet talk five hours to raise the money before he gets a beating and marked with a blade.
Tagline – The syndicate gave him five hours – to pay up or get cut up!
You can’t help but be behind Sammy every step of the way as he struggles to get every penny he needs to save himself, frantically pulling in every single money making idea he can muster and favor he can beg for. Like a human calculator, working out every detail down to it’s precise percentages and profit margin, every last pound and pence to not take a right proper beating.
Tagline – Hard-hitting drama of a small-time hustler in trouble with the top-money boys – the mob – the strip-tease queens!
Luckily he gets help from his trusty friend Harry (Wilfrid Brambell) and a young Northern lass called Patsy (Julia Foster) who’s moved to London to try and be Sammy’s girl. Can our hero make it in time and come up trumps before his time is up? With his talent for quips and banter, can he charm his way out of this mess?
It’s a strange mix of styles, going from comedy to thriller, has beat generation elements to it and very slight touches of the drama consistent with film noir but it’s lightness takes away some of that edge. It’s a very entertaining joy to watch and lovers of seeing vintage London with be delighted by all the street scenes.
Random Wolfman Observations
- The film is brimming with British comedy actors and features Wilfrid Brambell (Steptoe and Son). Warren Mitchell (Till Death Us Do Part) plays Sammy’s deli shop brother Lou. Plus Roy Kinnear and Derek Nimmo pop up also.
- The jazz score is by composer Kenny Graham and was never released as a soundtrack until the wonderful Jonny Trunk Records found the master tapes.
- Director Ken Hughes had expanded this film from a TV play he had success with. He might not be that well known for making this film but you sure will know his Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
- A great interview with Julia Foster about her part playing Sammy’s girl Pasty. You can watch it here. Funny little story about her club “audition” scene.
- The film opens travelling along Berwick Street Soho, a road I’ve wandered down on many occasions from a teenager in the late 80’s to only this year. Used to be filled with record shops and a vinyl diggers paradise. Sadly most have vanished but it’s still a nostalgic walk down memory lane.
Hope you can get to watch this entertain and slightly saucy, joyous romp around sixties London. Have you seen it? What did you think?
All the best….. Mikey The Wolfman