Fifty years on from its cinema release and a good twenty since its brief appearance on VHS (should we forget that ancient format), Go To Blazes has just received a release on DVD, recalling an era of British comedy that was particularly, and almost exclusively, aimed at home territory, before the likes of Benny Hill and Mr Bean proved to be more international in their appeal.
Our lead larcenists are Harry (Daniel Massey), Bernard (Dave King) and Alfie (Norman Rossington), a nefarious trio who have simple aims in life: undertake heists to earn piles of hard cash. Previous attempts at robbery have been scuppered by the police capturing them when they have to stop their getaway car at the traffic lights. The solution to their traffic trauma appears to be brilliant in its simplicity – a getaway vehicle that has no transport restrictions, indeed one that will actually stop the traffic – a fire engine. The three hoodlums need only obtain the aforementioned vehicle and learn how to operate it. Simple, yes? And they also have the ideal means of removing any stolen cash from the scene of the crime. There’s only one slight problem to their plan: they might have put out actual fires …
Think Carry On the Lavender Hill Mob but set in a more On The Buses environment. A mainstream, popularist Ealing style film combined with distinctly constructed colour cinematography, Go To Blazes is an enjoyable romp, a comedy about crooks that, in many ways, appeals largely as a product of the time that it was made. This is set at the beginning of the Swinging Sixties and, while the Fab Four’s Please Please Me (1963) had still yet to hit the charts, elements of this fashionable and fashion conscious decade were already beginning to emerge. Society was clearly changing, but traditional expectations were still very much part of the culture. Go To Blazes relies on cinematic situation comedy to expand beyond the theatre or television based production, predominantly through the use of the fire engines which almost become characters themselves. Much of the comedy hangs on these lovely old red motor vehicles. If the central characters are like a British Three Stooges-lite, the vehicular shenanigans make the film more visually amusing as well as being a worthy successor to other transport centred comedy such as The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953) or Genevieve (1953), albeit with a hint of Benny Hill. Additional enjoyment can be gained from some of the supporting characters such as Harry’s lady friend Chantal (an early role for Maggie Smith) and Eddie the arsonist (played with aplomb by Robert Morley) as well as the agreeable score, which has occasional hints of St Trinian’s about it.
Enjoyable light-comedy that is still engaging but is also delightfully revealing as a product of its time.