RENTADICK, the British comedy Monty Python’s John Cleese and Graham Chapman probably wouldn’t want you to see, makes its way to DVD courtesy of Scorpion Releasing and Katrina's Kat Scratch Cinema!
Dr. Jeffrey Armitage (Donald Sinden, DAY OF THE JACKAL) solicits the services of oblivious Major Upton (Ronald Fraser, THE WILD GEESE) and his private detective agency to follow the movements of his hot young wife Utta (Julie Ege, LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES). Upton assigns new guy Hobbes (Richard Beckinsale, father of Kate) to trail the wife, but finds a more lucrative job with Armitage in securing his chemicals factory when Japanese agents lead by spy Madame Greenfly (Tsai Chin, THE FACE OF FU MANCHU) try to steal his formula for a nerve gas that causes temporary paralysis. When the spies are unsuccessful, they decide to also hire Upton’s firm to steal the formula and a sample of the gas; fortunately for them, detective Hamilton (James Booth, REVENGE) and his partner Gannett (Richard Briers, ALL THE WAY UP) are on the take – Hamilton also supplies white slaves to a sheik (Michael Bentine, DOWN AMONG THE Z MEN) who runs a small Arab landing strip outside London – and decide to keep the arrangement with the Japanese from Upton. The usual slapstick hijinks keep plans from going smoothly.
The original script was written by Cleese and Chapman, but the producers reportedly made so many changes – “additional dialogue” by sketch show NOT SO MUCH A PROGRAMME, MORE A WAY OF LIFE writers/actors John Fortune and John Wells – that they had their names taken off the script. It’s just as well since most of the talent is let down by the material – with the exception of a typically blustery Sinden (whose younger brother Leon also appears as a police inspector) and Booth (largely playing it straight until he does a Cagney impression late in the film) – with more mugging for the camera than witty wordplay, generally poor sight gags, and only some brief views of Ege’s cleavage to titillate. Scenes of Hobbs spying on Utta, Gannett trying to escape Armitage’s house undetected, Hamilton skulking around, while Armitage and Upton bluster eat up the running time going around in circles without actually provoking much in the way of chuckles (at the one hour mark, most viewers will have had enough). There are some of the usual non-PC bits here familiar from British film and TV of the period that would not have gone over well stateside even in 1972 including plenty of mispronunciation of words with the letter ‘r’ by poor Chin (“Oh, clap!”) – who also isn’t very nondescript for a spy decked out as a geisha with bound feet hopping around in public – and just about everything involving Hussein, his harem, and his striking workers who demand one wife for each hour of overtime.
RENTADICK is another one of the Rank titles Scorpion licensed from ITV (as such, it is coded for Region 1 playback only). The UK DVD release from Network is a fullscreen transfer, but – like Scorpion’s release of THE DEVIL WITHIN HER – it appears that Scorpion got their master from MGM and it is an attractive 1.83:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The source isn’t free from damage (occasional white speckling during the dissolves), but it looks gorgeous thanks to the colorful art direction and Coquillon’s occasional use of color gels (although the photography in general couldn’t really be described as “visually stunning”). Dialogue on the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is sometimes uneven (especially compared to the sound effects) but that seems to be either a fault of the mix or the materials (Ege’s lines are sometimes unintelligible but that’s partially the fault of her character’s possibly-dubbed-by-another-actress accent).
Disc hostess Katarina Leigh Waters is pretty thorough in highlighting the prominent cast – pointing out a cameo by Patricia Quinn (THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW) who plays Armitage’s sexy chauffeur – and crew – including DP Johnny Coquillion (WITCHFINDER GENERAL), composer Carl Davis (FRANKENSTEIN UNBOUND), and director Clark’s other career as an editor (Oscar-nominated for editing THE MISSION and won for THE KILLING FIELDS) – but she does neglect to mention the bookending appearances by droll TV actress Penelope Keith (TO THE MANOR BORN as well as Briers’ co-star on THE GOOD LIFE) – in scenes that appear to have been shot to smooth over the mess of a film – Barry Andrews (BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW) as a police officer during the climax, as well as the credit for second unit director Richard Loncraine (THE HAUNTING OF JULIA). The disc also includes trailers for QUEST FOR LOVE, KILL AND KILL AGAIN, TOMBOY, THE POM-POM GIRLS, JOYSTICKS, ALLEY CAT, VOYAGER (HOMO FABER) and THE INTERNECINE PROJECT. (Eric Cotenas)
BACK TO REVIEWS