- This essay will inevitably contain spoilers!


- A review by Richard Harrison (2010)

If one took a carelessly selected random sample of British cinema in the years 1969-1975 one could labour under the erroneous impression that a) they all were about sex, b) they were always aimed at representing youth culture and c) they were all about sex. In fact, though there are many exceptions, British cinema in this period was one in turbulent transition as the hedonistic Sixties gave way to the unsettled Seventies with an increasing reliance on technology when employment relied on manual work. A consideration of some of the British films released in 1969 alone provides interesting food for thought- two Carry On films, Battle of Britain, The Italian Job, Kes, several Hammer horror films, Women In Love, the Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and last (and by all means least) the pointless re-make of Goodbye, Mr. Chips. The interesting thing is to what extent these films represent the era in which they were made. Some do (one thinks of Carry On Camping) and some don’t (The Battle of Britain, for example). To the shortlist of those that seem to wholeheartedly endorse the values of the time one can add A Promise of Bed known by the far less ostentatious title of This, That and the Other!.

A film that is typical of its director’s penchant for sexploitation, This, That and the Other! is a real curiosity in that it seems (in its opening five minutes) to be hopelessly predictable yet swiftly moves on to do more interesting things with its unashamedly sex-dominated content. The structure of the film is threefold- a trio of stories are presented which are loosely and smoothly connected through the brief presence of a previous character in the next vignette. Thus, Dennis Waterman in the opening segment is watched from a window by loner Victor Spinetti who is then the central character in the next mini narrative. Overall, the film establishes an aura of sexual misunderstanding coupled with fantasy, its content becoming continuously more surreal (if not explicit- flesh is shown unflinchingly throughout the film). If the content represents its era, the soundtrack (which could become the new dictionary definition of ‘groovy’) also shackles This, That and the Other! to the late 1960s. Also supporting the fact that this is firmly a film at the end of the swinging Sixties is the inclusion of actors familiar from other roles- most notably a scene stealing performance by Alexandra Bastedo, a familiar face at the time from cult classic series The Champions.

One of the most refreshing things about a film like This, That and the Other! is its sheer amount of ideas- each episode of the tripartite structure has something to commend it, the poignancy of the second (where again the initial premise is subverted in a fashion that is little short of genius) is offset by the third, where nothing is certain, its surrealism reminiscent of a poor man’s Bunuel. From the title, the era and the cast of the film as a whole one’s expectations are not high, and one could be forgiven for approaching the film with a wearied sense of needing to endure rather than enjoy it. However, throughout the very modest running time (78 minutes) the film doesn’t bore but intrigues, its unexpected events being a source of continual delight. In more recent years British cinema has overall become staid, predictable and politically correct- a very bad and unsatisfying combination. A little over forty years ago, however, things were different, and it is this difference that makes This, That and the Other! far more interesting than many more recent films, British or otherwise.

This, That and the Other! is available on DVD from Odeon Entertainment.