Go to Blazes, 1962.
Directed by Michael Truman.
Starring Dave King, Robert Morley, Norman Rossington, Daniel Massey, Dennis Price, Maggie Smith and David Lodge.
Three robbers plan a heist using a fire engine as a getaway vehicle, but their scheme begins to unravel when they are mistaken for real firemen.
British cinema has had many memorable eras during its time. It’s often American cinema that is seen as the leading light in film. That may be because of the glitz of Hollywood and where the money is, masking the fact that often, much has been pilfered from European and Asian cinema over the years. In certain periods of time, Britain has threatened to run side by side with its American cousin without ever looking like overtaking. The 60s was a defining era for British film. We had the launch of Michael Caine, and the beginning of some gritty, grounded, cinema before America’s own era of such in the 70s. There was Bond, you could go on all day. As well as that, Britain produced a wealth of comedy, in particular Ealing and of course the Carry On films. Go to Blazes comes from an era where much of the crème of British cinema, and indeed comedy, remains. There’s a lot to compete with, and much to live up to.
Go to Blazes sadly doesn’t punch weight with the heavy-weight entries into Blighty’s cinematic vaults. The idea has promise. Three amiable thieves find themselves unable to master a life of crime. The film opens on a smash and grab heist gone wrong, leaving Harry, Alfie and Bernard at her Maj’s pleasure. However, an idea comes to them. How can they avoid traffic on a getaway? What will traffic stop for? The fire service! In an effort to pull off a significant heist when they get out of prison, they set their sights on obtaining (illegally of course!) a fire engine.
Things keep getting in the way of their quest for riches, such as love interests, and fire and floods that they are expected to put out! It’s screwball, it’s very silly, but the script just doesn’t hold enough interest. We never really build momentum to a big heist. The film jumps from scene to scene quite sloppily, introducing oddball characters who serve no other purpose than to attempt to amuse the audience. Now that maybe true of many comedy films, but the best comedy films have characters who whilst funny, can also further the plot.
That said, the film has three leads who play off each other pretty well. Daniel Massey in particular as the posh Harry, is decent and some might remember him from the brilliant(ly ridiculous) Escape to Victory. Dave King leads the line well as Bernard. Perhaps the most key question that this film raises, would be: “Was Maggie Smith ever hot?” A youthful Dame Maggie appears here, with a rather dodgy French accent that disappears towards the end, replaced by cockney. In answer to that most pertinent of questions though, no… Maggie Smith was never hot. I’m sorry. The remainder of the cast range from unmemorable to bizarrely hammy. Largely due to the script though, they face an uphill task to gain laughter. In the films favour, it looks very good. The cinematography is excellent, and the palette colourful and it’s aided by a good DVD transfer for this release.
This film is one of those you flick through on an early afternoon on BBC 2. You watch for 5 minutes while the ad break on another channel is playing out, then you flick away from it. It’s a forgotten piece of its time, without the wit and creativity to let it last the years and move with the times. Some films are timelessly funny. This one might have amused a little bit in 1962, but nowadays, it just doesn’t offer enough. It’s by no means bad; it’s just not very good.