I’ve never hidden my love of 70s British sitcoms, but I am hesitant when it comes to the movie spin-offs. As I’ve said in previous reviews, the longer format can often show the lack of depth in many of the 30-minute shows, with only a select few able to carry a thin plot over 90 minutes. For my money, only two shows have actually improved in the movie format – and one of these is On The Buses.
And to be honest, I really don’t know how it works, because if anything, the On The Buses Movie Collection features some of the flimsiest plots ever seen on the big screen and some of most one-dimensional characters you’ll ever encounter. But perhaps that’s the reason why all three films in the series do work – there’s nothing clever here, it’s just good old-fashioned comedy, a live-action version of the saucy seaside postcard.
And of course, packed with larger-than-life characters. These include driver Stan Butler and his conductor Jack, the oldest swingers in town, but with an amazing ability to attract the "birds", who are usually "clippies" about 25 years their junior. Add to that their inspector (Blakey – with an unfortunate likeness to Hitler), Stan’s sister Olive, a by-word for ugly for years to come, her layabout husband Arthur, and Stan’s domineering mother.
Three films were made (by Hammer of all people) – On The Buses, Mutiny On The Buses and Holiday On The Buses. Plot? Well, in the first movie, women drivers are employed by the bus company, much to the annoyance of the male employees – who go out of their way to get them out again. As I said earlier, this was a pre-PC world. In the second movie, Stan gets engaged, but needs the money for a flat – which means getting his brother-in-law a job on the buses and getting himself a better-paid job driving round Windsor Safari Park. The final instalment sees the lads and Inspector Blake getting the boot – and getting jobs at a holiday camp – as a bus driving team and security "inspector".
In terms of plot and laughs, there’s nothing between them. Things start to tire a bit towards the end of the second instalment, but a move to the holiday camp (and the addition of Wilfred "Steptoe" Brambell to the cast) is enough to keep things going for a third spin-off.
Not likely to be everyone’s cup of tea, certainly not one for the academics, but this particular sitcom got huge ratings both on TV and at the cinema (hence the three movies) and got them for a reason – it was very funny. Add to that the extra laughs you’ll get today from the period fashions and the fact that all three come in one box for around £15 and you really can’t go far wrong with this.
Extras on the DVD: