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Friday, 20 July 2012

Classic Film Review: Doctor in the House (1954)

Perhaps the most important flag to wave about Doctor in the House is that it is very British. Of course, I don't mean that as an insult but just as a warning to those who prefer their humour with more oomph. This is funny, yes, but there are few moments of physical humour.

Simon Sparrow (Dirk Bogarde) is starting medical school. He falls into an already-established group of men who have been there some time: Richard (Kenneth More), Tony (Donald Sinden) and Taffy (Donald Houston). Richard is easily the most vivid of these three - he was given an allowance in his grandmother's will as long as he remained a medical student so, naturally, he's not keen to graduate. Unfortunately, his girlfriend has issues being the wife of a perpetual student and threatens to leave if he doesn't knuckle down. As the years of their training progress, the group get into scrapes and are faced with real-life patients, not to mention the nursing staff. Lothario Tony gets himself into a little trouble and they all get into a lot of trouble when they pursue their stolen mascot in a stolen ambulance.

There were some genuinely funny moments in this, many brought about by the incomparable Kenneth More. In addition, Sir Lancelot Spratt played by James Robertson Justice is a wonderful character, given some of the best lines and the memorable moments in the film and brought by him and More. That isn't to say that the rest of the cast is inferior - Bogarde and the rest gelled perfectly as a team. However, my main problem with this one was the fragmentation. While it fits neatly with the premise (potential doctors have a lot to learn), it does mean that scenes often come to nothing and they can feel rushed and incomplete. For example, the title comes from a comment made by Sparrow's landlady but he only lives there for a very short time before moving with the group. Also, while Sparrow's false starts with two women were amusing to watch, I would've liked to have seen more of the interactions but maybe that's just me.

This is a good film to while away an afternoon with. I think my ambivalence can be summed up in one sentence: I enjoyed it but I won't be rushing to watch the numerous sequels.

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