Bottoms Up! (1960) – Film Review
Director: Mario Zampi
Cast: Jimmy Edwards, Arthur Howard, Martita Hunt
by Sarah Morgan
If you’re looking for a real curiosity piece, something that could never, ever be remade, then Bottoms Up! is for you.
People in black face and the spanking of young boys abound here, and while these sights leave modern viewers aghast, such things were a staple part of British comedy back in the late 1950s and 1960s.
Jimmy Edwards takes the lead in this big-screen version of his TV sitcom hit Whack-O!. He plays Professional Jim Edwards, the hapless blustering headmaster of Chiselbury public school. He’s always wrong but never believes that to be the case and is a little too free with the cane – he’s not averse to giving his long-suffering staff, in particular his assistant, Mr Pettigrew, a tongue lashing either.
“All manner of trouble”
But Edwards’ position is under threat from Lady Gore-Willoughby, the new head of the governors, who wants to replace him with somebody else unless he can drastically improve the school’s performance. He also needs to pay off a bookie and hits on an idea that will enable him to do both – he will accept the bookie’s ne’er-do-well son as a pupil for free if he poses as the heir to the fortune of an oil-rich Middle Eastern state.
All goes well, until Edwards is approached by a diplomat who wants the real heir to hide out at Chiselbury, causing all manner of trouble and strife.
Bottoms Up! is not a terrible film by any means, but it’s no masterpiece either – providing you can ignore its non-PC elements. There are a few decent lines and situations thanks to Michael Pertwee’s screenplay, with additional material from Frank Muir and Denis Nordern, who were behind the sitcom.
Edwards is a bit of a one-trick pony, unfortunately. He’s a large man with a large presence on screen – and no subtlety to go with it. Everything he does is big with a capital B.
The supporting cast is far more interesting – look out for future Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell as the unruliest of the pupils and a young Richard Briers as one of the masters who continually finds himself on the wrong end of Edwards’ temper.
If vintage comedy is your bag, you’ll love Bottoms Up!. If not, you’re in for a bum steer.