Till Death Us Do Part (1968) – Film Review
Director: Norman Cohen
Cast: Warren Mitchell, Dandy Nichols, Una Stubbs
by Sarah Morgan
Discovering a new favourite film, whether it’s just been released or is decades old, is always a delight. I also try to remain open-minded about everything I watch, believing it could be winner. So I went into the Till Death Us Do Part movie with an open mind. I’d never seen it before and had only ever seen clips of the TV sitcom that spawned it, despite considering myself something of a connoisseur of classic British comedy.
Sadly, I didn’t find it to be a gem waiting to be rediscovered, but a rather annoying curiosity piece.
Scriptwriter Johnny Speight claimed that lead character Alf Garnett was created to shine a light on racism, sexism and political issues and was disappointed that he came to be regarded as a rough diamond, believing viewers had missed the point. Looking at the film version now, Alf appears merely a narrow-minded hypocrite with few, if any, redeeming features.
“Short on laughs”
Having said that, it all begins rather interestingly by taking viewers back to 1939, just a few weeks before the outbreak of the Second World War. Dockyard worker Alf and his wife Else have been married for only a short period of time, but it’s already obvious the marriage is not a blissfully happy one. The story then follows them through the war years and the birth of their daughter Rita, giving what appears to be an insightful look at the working class during this period.
The problem with the production arises when the tale jumps forward to the 1960s, and suddenly it turns into a particularly horrible episode of EastEnders in which cockneys basically screech at each other relentlessly. For a comedy, it’s stunningly short on laughs – in fact, as dismal as Walford can be, I’d suggest there are more gags there than here.
Mitchell was a skilled actor who popped up in numerous films and TV series over the years, often stealing the show. He also had a long and glorious stage career, so it’s rather sad that he will probably forever be known for playing Alf. At the end of the film, the Garnett clan move home without telling him where they’re going – it’s the wisest decision anybody makes throughout the entire one hour and 40 minutes running time.
Having said all that, fans of the original show will no doubt love the film, as well as the disc’s one major special feature – a chance to see Sex Before Marriage, a black and white episode from the 1960s which had been lost for 50 years.
‘Till Death Us Do Part’ is released on Blu-ray by Network, £11.70