The Sandwich Man – Film News |


R. Hatford-Davis (director)

Live Network (studio)

you (certificate)

95 minutes (length)

August 29, 2022 (published)


More “travelogue” and a trip down memory lane than a comedy, this 1966 oddity provided a star vehicle for “lost moron” Michael Bentine as a sandwich man. Has there ever been a film featuring so many British character actors in cameos – the list is literally to die for!

Bentine stars as the lovable “sandwich board man” in question named Horace Quilby, who also happens to be the secretary of the Sandwich Men Brotherhood. Horace lives in an obscure terraced house in Silvertown between all – far in London’s East End (which was, at the time of filming, Victoria Docks – now completely altered in appearance). Horace’s job (which now seems obsolete) is to walk the streets of London’s West End with two boards on the back and front slung to advertise Finklebaum & O’Casey – dealers in unsuitable clothes. A man with a heart of platinum, Horace also has a great passion for racing pigeons, which he keeps in his yard. One of them, Esmerelda, was engaged in a big race on the day in question. His next-door neighbor Mrs. DeVere (Dora Bryan doing her usual OTT persona as a slightly frustrated widow) keeps him informed through her various daily contacts of the bird’s progress.

It was former Prime Minister Tony Blair who said that one of the things London is famous for is its great cultural mix and no one doubts his sincerity. Here, in 1966, Eton were seen educating Bentine a bit ahead of his time in that regard. Its immediate neighbors are two Sikh jazz musicians (winking us at Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy), Fez carrying carpet salesman Abdul played by ‘The Master’ himself Roger Delgado and Burt Kwouk as than a Chinese ice cream parlor. This, as previously mentioned, might be a little thin – but it feels like Bentine (who co-wrote the screenplay with the director) meant well. We’re off for a day with our Horace and what a day it is… you just wouldn’t believe everyone he meets: among the myriad we have Norman Wisdom as an Irish priest and physical education instructor who runs a boys’ club near St. Paul’s Cathedral – of course, Norm stands up for all his old malarkeys, a seemingly sober Ian Hendry as a belligerent motorcycle cop, Terry-Thomas as a miffed scout leader and Harry H. Corbett lives up to his usual larks as a former stage door keeper at the London Palladium (diabolla-olly-orical indeed!). Stereotypes abound everywhere. We even have old-fashioned, beetle-browed Shakespearean legend Donald Wolfit posing as a high-end car salesman. Wolfit even gets a line from the bard himself “The rest is silence”.

Guess we’ll have to ignore Michael Medwin’s smelly garbage man emerging from a hole in what could have been the middle of Fleet Street. When he asks his buddy (down in the hole) what he’d like to eat, he’s upset at her “unmanly” request and simply replies, “You’re going to have a burger and you like it.” He then salivates in the hole before “stinking” the queue at the nearby cafe. These are all common occurrences in Horace’s daily routine, it seems. Along the trail we also meet Diana Dors, Anna Quayle, Ron Moody, Warren Mitchell, Stanley Holloway, Earl Cameron as a bus driver…the list is endless.
Throughout the film, Horace plays Cupid for a pair of star-crossed latter-day lovers played by Suzy Kendall and David Buck. You have to keep in mind that this was in 1966 and overall the movie really has a lot to offer in terms of entertainment and offers breathtaking views of the London of yesteryear – the whole movie was made on site in the city. It’s true that some jokes backfire, but that’s easily outweighed by those that don’t. It was a novel idea on Bentine’s part and it is paying off.

The team of Peter Newbrook and Robert Hartford Davies are behind it all and Newbrook (who does the extras commentary) has a real field day with the expansive pitches – most of which looked pretty tricky. Manfred Mann Band member Mike Vickers provides a very fitting score to start. A huge slew of extras make this restored Blu-ray release all the more interesting and yes indeed, who remembers human billboard Stanley Green – the “Protein Man” of Oxford Street (although he’s is actually a banner that Stanley was carrying and not a sandwich panel).


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