The Runaway Bus
'Get on that coach' they tell me, 'Then drive those airport passengers to Blackbush, because the thick
fog is stopping any aircraft's from taking off'.
I mean, would you Adam and Eve it? How dare they speak to me like that? Me. Percy Lamb (Frankie Howerd). The replacement bus-driver who's got the take this miserable lot to somewhere I've never ever been before. You know. This lot...
- Lee Nichols (Petula Clark) -- Hey! Of course I don't mean my 'Nikki'. She's my instructor during this journey don't you know. Nice girl she is. Has a great set of lungs on her.
- Cynthia Beeston (Margaret Rutherford) -- Oh! Don't get me started on this old battleaxe. She a right pain in the ass I can tell you.
- Ernest Shroeder (George Coulouris) -- No. I'm not too sure about this one either. He seems nice. Sure. But in my eyes he looks like a very shrewd character indeed.
- Henry Waterman (Toke Townley) -- Unlike Cynthia, Henry is a very-very nice chap. In fact, he's so nice; he even helps me direct my couch through the Fog by walking in front of it.
- Peter Jones (Terence Alexander) -- Nah. If truth be told he reminds me of Ernest. He seems nice too, yet... hmmm... I'm reserving my judgment on this so-called pilot.
- Janie Grey (Belinda Lee) -- Or as I'd like to call her, 'The Thrill-Queen', because she enjoys reading all of those silly book's she has on her.
Huh? What's that you say, mate? One of my passengers has robbed a bank? And has somehow hidden a bag load gold bullion at the back of my coach? Cor' Blimey! That's most probably why what next transpires hits the skids when I crash my vehicle into a deserted village. As HQ gets in touch - a mumbled plot-line is a bit too much - a shooter hits the clutch - and at the end of the day a bank-robber ends up having to go Dutch.
So there he was, Frankie Howerd, back stage at the 'London Palladium', topping the bill in a long running variety show he was performing in at the time. When suddenly, out of the blue, the producer, Val Guest, walked into his dressing room, and asked him if he wanted to star in his own movie. 'Films?' said Frankie. 'Oh no, that's a dangerous game. If no one will go it'll be all my fault! Thank you, but no thank you!' he continued.
However, Val being the kind of a man he was, he eventually got Frankie to star in 'The Runaway Bus', by agreeing to his following three demands. Firstly, Val had to devise a comedy-thriller, so that if the comedy part didn't work, the thriller part might. Secondly, Frankie didn't want his name first above the titles. And thirdly, he wanted his favorite comedy actress, Margaret Rutherford, to be in it with him.
OK. So now you've had the history and the facts, next you'll get my opinion on 'The Runaway Bus'. Or as I would like to call it, 'Speed 0 Goes to Ye Olde
Granted, there are a couple of things in this comedy which isn't like 'Speed'. Like the uninspired camerawork for example. The evident staged sets. Plus the timely yet bold joviality of an all English cast that are very cartoon-like by nature.
Of course, Frankie and Margaret are the most overt within this piece. Hamming it up in that very grandiose way of theirs', without really slipping out of character at any given moment. Also, I have to say that the rest of this cast weren't that bad either. Especially Petula and Terrance. Who do seem to 'take charge' when the need arose. Grabbing this flick by its proverbial horns and steering it into some sort of suspenseful structure.
However, dear reader, that's precisely where the error lies with 'The Runaway Bus'. It's structure. On a conceptual level it's tonally all over the place, and dashes at the screen comedy, thrills, and preconceived ideas that don't always appear to work in execution.
Now I do apologize Frankie and Margaret fans. I do mean this with all due respect. But I'm afraid to say that even though I was very happy to watch this film, at the same time I wished that the production values, the script, plus the overall narrative had a more defined driving force behind it.
Ops! Please excuse the obvious pun. Nuff said.
THE RATING: B-