Cor' Blimey Governor! Isn't that silver-haired old-sod, Soapy Stevens (Wilfrid Hyde-White), one slippery and shrewd swindler? Well, he has the audacity to sneak his way into prison -- posed as a vicar -- and persuade current-convict / previous-partner,
(Peter Sellers), to join him in stealing some diamonds from some rich Arab
OK, I know at first glace that this does sounds like a blooming crazy idea. However, with a modicum of thought behind it, it is possible to accomplish this task in a topsy-turvy way.
You see, on the one hand, Dodger and his pals, Lennie the Dip and Jelly Knight (Bernard Cribbins and David Lodge), will be leaving prison just after this planed heist, and would have a very good alibi if the law was ever to get involved. Whilst, on the other hand, there are a number of questions that need to be answered first before anything is set in stone.
For example: Will the lads be able to escape from prison and return to it without them being spotted? Also, can they trust Soapy with his end of the bargain, especially since it was him that landed them in jail in the first place? Plus, let's not forget the Chief Prison Officer, huh?
No. Not Jenkins (George Woodbridge). This nice gent will be retiring his post shortly. It's his replacement that is a cause for concern. 'Sour' Crout (Lionel Jeffries). As his stance on prison reform involves smashing rocks 24/7 at a local quarry.
Bugger! That's most probably why what next transpires all begins when 'Sauerkraut' squashes the Governor's marrow! As escapes are made - plan are played - officials put on a show - and you know the old saying 'easy come, easy go'.
Now for me, personally, 'Two Way Stretch' is a film that makes me hark back to my days as a child, watching television with my folks, on a big wooden box that appeared to be made by a Victorian carpenter. Well, from what I can recollect, I am nigh on positive that it was this classic piece of British cinema which introduced me to the concept of 'a silly nick-name'.
Yes. I am afraid to say that after hearing some of the guys in this flick being called 'Dodger Lane', 'Soapy Stevens' and 'Sauerkraut', I gave up remembering peoples real-names forever more, and decided to give them jovial rhyming ones instead.
Just ask my pal 'Keith the Thief', he'd tell you this fact was true.
Though, do you know what else I have leant from this comedy? Check this out:
- 'Sometimes an adventure needs to have some character to tell a tale properly' -- Honestly, if this piece did not have all the charm and slapstick grace of yesteryear weighing it down, it would most probably be just another run of the mill crime caper.
- 'Actors are great when they
are on bold and brash form' -- For instance, Peter Sellers plays Dodger as if
he was born in the
East End. Bernard Cribbins and David Lodge almost seemed to be made to play Dodgers bumbling diametric-duo. Plus Lionel Jefferies and Wilfrid Hyde-White were so brazen as the 'dubious counterpoints', that every time I saw them on television afterwards, I could not help but remember them as 'Sauerkraut' and 'Soapy Stevens' respectively.
- 'Less is sometime more' -- Although the two women in this film, Liz Fraser and Irene Handel, were given very small roles in this picture, for me, whenever they were on screen, they took it over. Heck, one of my most favorite scenes in this flick, is when Irene's character, Mrs Price, tells off her son, Lenny, as played by Bernard Cribbins, for not breaking out of jail.
- 'Music is good' -- In a strange way the music to this movie really did jazz up the mood in places; giving it a swinging beat that made me tap my feet. True. And rhythmical as well.
Hey, while I am in a bullet-point mood, let's check out some filmic-facts, huh? (1) The voice of the Police Superintendent, as played in this film by Robert James, was in fact dubbed. (2) Wilfrid Hyde-White's first role was in 1934, in a production called 'Josser on the Farm'. (3) The West Cavalry Barracks, located in
Aldershot, is where the prison scenes were shot.
Also, the train station scenes were recorded at Pirbright Arch, Brookwood, Surrey.
(4) Lionel Jeffries starred with Peter Seller three years after this picture
was made, in another bungling crime caper called 'The Wrong Arm of the Law'. (5) Liz Fraser, who plays Ethel, was still learning how to
drive during production. So in the scene where she was trailing an army convoy
in an Aston Martin, she kept on stalling her car, resulting in it being towed
just out of shot. (6) Bernard Cribbins is the only actor to appear in both the original
1966 "Doctor Who" feature film, plus the television series too. (7)
English comedian, Ronnie Barker, based his 'Fletcher' character in the sit-com
'Porridge', upon Dodger Lane
as played by Peter Sellers in this flick. (8) Irene Handel played Peter Sellers
wife, Ms Kite, in the film that won him a British Academy Award, 'I'm All Right
Jack'. (9) The working title for this adventure was 'Nothing Barred'. (10) The
director of this piece, Robert Day, also directed the television based British
productions, 'The Adventures of Robin Hood', 'The Avengers', and 'Ironside'.
(11) David Lodge was a very close friend of Peter Sellers, and appeared with
him on quite a few movies. Like the 'Pink Panther' films for example.
Overall, 'Two Way Stretch' is a comedy that can do no wrong in my eyes. It's charming. It's classic. It has a nice and funny vibe about it. Plus, although it may not be everybody's cup of tea, in a round about way it's educational too.
THE RATING: A