Ken Russell’s debut feature. James Booth plays Jim, a deckchair attendant in a dying English seaside resort. Alita Naughton plays his charming girlfriend, an American journalist who’s showing signs of outgrowing their small town. With his world threatened, Jim concocts a scheme to stage a film festival starring a French beauty.
The humor sits between Benny Hill farce and Monty Python absurdism. It misses more than it hits, but several scenes—such as the morbid parade chronicling English-French relations—elicited chuckles and the lightning finale had me roaring. The dialog also includes some memorable bits, such as how they’re certain the nudist beach won’t scare the horses.
I also loved the seaside photography and small-town atmosphere. Despite the outrageous plot, the film generates the organic verisimilitude of a long-running series. The world feels lived in and the characters familiar.
But, at thirty-seven, Booth is too old to play Jim. He’s a charismatic performer—reminding me more than once of a young Richard Kind. But the character works as a young man forced to accept adulthood. Pushing forty, Booth comes across as a man-child and his relationship with twenty-two-year-old Naughton feels somewhat creepy. But if you can overlook this bit, Russell’s inauspicious debut proves an agreeable diversion.