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Anchor Bay presents
"What a fabulous knock-out scene!"
DVD ReviewSmashing Time is a pleasant little British comedy from 1967, starring Lynn Redgrave ("Yvonne") and Rita Tushingham ("Brenda") as two "Northern girls" who come to London's swinging Carnaby Street district to seek fame and fortune, suffering a few strains on their friendship in the process. After some initial bad luck, the girls find success—Yvonne enjoys a brief career as a pop star and Brenda takes a turn as the "Face of the 60's" courtesy of fashion photographer Tom Wabe (Michael York). The film isn't really a musical, but there are several songs performed by Tushingham and Redgrave used as overscoring to accentuate the action. Tushingham has a good singing voice and interprets lyrics well—Redgrave can't sing her way out of a bubble bath, but it's all part of the fun. Both lead performances are enjoyable—Redgrave seems to be having fun, and Tushingham gives a sympathetic performance that benefits from her expressive face.
Behind the scenes, screenwriter George Melly seems to be hinting at an Alice in Wonderland element to the story, or exhibiting a Lewis Carroll fixation—one scene takes place at the Jabberwock Gallery, and characters are named Momerath, Brillig and Wabe. Direction by Desmond Davis (probably best known for Clash of the Titans) is straightforward—the character scenes all work quite well, and the action is staged cleanly without any "psychedelic" or needlessly arty camerawork. Several slapstick sequences (a pie fight, a food/cleaning supply fight, and some other nonsense) seem tacked-on and uninspired, but I did catch myself laughing at a few gags. The film's strongest visuals show up in an entertaining art gallery sequence, where bizarre mechanical contraptions parody AND exemplify 60's pop art.
My favorite aspect of the film is its unintentional documentary nature—while numerous (usually exploitative) movies have been made about the US counterculture of the 1960's, films about the contemporary British scene are harder to come by. Smashing Time was shot on location in London, and while its portrayal of Carnaby Street culture is exaggerated for comic effect, one still gets a feel for the times—Brenda peruses an employment advert that offhandedly states "No coloureds," and social class divisions are apparent when a lecherous older man attempts to seduce the intoxicated Yvonne. The film also features some openly gay minor characters, though the characterizations tend heavily towards the limp-wristed stereotype.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: Once in a while I pick up a DVD that makes me truly appreciate the medium, not because it thoroughly exercises the technology, but because it just gives a movie the proper home viewing treatment. Smashing Time is just such a release. It's a pleasure to see an older movie that I haven't seen in its correct aspect ratio, transferred from a good print with high-quality audio. Prior to DVD, I'd have had no hope of seeing a minor film like this without settling for a dark, grainy pan & scan cable TV experience—I'm very happy that high-quality presentations have become the standard in such a short time.
The non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer has good color saturation, minimal print defects (numerous flecks, no splices or damaged frames), and no compression artifacting that I could detect. There's some vertical wobble visible when stepping through the film frame-by-frame, apparently due to frame registration inconsistency in the source or during the telecine process, but it's not apparent at normal viewing speed. There's at least one visible reel-change marker and the image is a little bit soft, but clean and very solid considering the age of the film.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The monophonic soundtrack has been well-preserved—there's some low-level hiss in most of the dialogue scenes, which were apparently recorded "live", and some of the music is unpleasantly shrill at the high end, but those flaws seem intrinsic to the original film. I suspect that the raw soundtrack materials were not available for remastering or cleanup, as neither production company responsible for the film seems to have survived beyond the late 1960's. The accents seem a little thick at the beginning of the film, which made me wish for subtitles for a few minutes until I got used to them.
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Final CommentsI enjoyed Smashing Time—it's a pleasant diversion and an entertaining period piece more than 30 years after its original release. I can't say it's a lost classic, but it's not a bad film at all, and I'll certainly watch it more than once. It's a lot of fun, especially if you want to see some of the culture lampooned by Austin Powers in its native habitat. Recommended.
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