Thursday 30 November 2017

Adam Faith: What A Whopper!

Thanks to the wonderful world of Twitter the other day I was informed that Talking Pictures TV were showing one of Sid James' early 60s comedy films I was yet to see. I had read about What A Whopper a while back in the excellent Sid James Companion, written by Robert Ross but this is the first time I've seen it on the telly.

The basic premise of the film focusses on a writer who attempts to raise some cash by writing a book about the Loch Ness Monster. No publisher will take it because they all think there isn't really a monster. The writer and some of his friends make a fake monster and take photographs and then travel to Scotland to see if they can convince the locals.

To be honest it's a fairly slim story for a film but it's light, frothy and a lovely burst of black and white innocent nostalgia for a dull November afternoon. As with many films of this type and era, what really makes this watchable in 2017 is the prime cast of brilliant British comedy actors who appear. Although a vehicle for the sparkling young pop star Adam Faith, the real stars are in the supporting cast. And there are several noteworthy Carry On stars present.

Leading the way is the wonderful Sidney James of course, putting in a classic Hancockian performance as the cheeky Cockney chappie on the make and behind the bar. Sid's effortless charm and boundless appeal are used to the full and it's an absolute joy from start to finish. Carry On original Terence Longdon has a sizable supporting role as Faith's mate Vernon and it's a world away from the posh army types he played in the likes of Carry On Sergeant, Nurse and Regardless.

There is also a lovely, over the top guest starring role for the legendary Charles Hawtrey as painter Arnold, one of a motley crew who shares the living space in Faith's block of flats in Chelsea. It's a classic little role for Hawtrey who used his Carry On fame to great effect at this time, popping up in all manner of productions, pretty much always doing the same kind of thing. Also look out for a supporting role from Terry Scott as a Scottish police sergeant and the lovely Molly Weir as a teacher.

What A Whopper also features interesting little cameos from Clive Dunn doing his old man act years before Corporal Jones in Dad's Army; Wilfrid Brambell as a slightly less than convincing Scottish postman and a typically outlandish cough and spit from the goonish Spike Milligan. As a side note, the glamorous blonde bombshell leading lady is Carole Lesley, who also starred in Doctor in Love at around the same time. Sadly, her career faltered by the 1970s and she was found dead in her house in Barnet, North London at the age of just 38. 

The film had a strong pedigree behind the camera too. The music was composed by the brilliant Laurie Johnson, best known for television themes such as The Avengers and The Professionals. The script was written by Terry Nation, who started out writing for Spike Milligan and aspiring writers Jeremy Lloyd and Trevor Peacock (best known for his role in The Vicar Of Dibley) both contributed to the story. 

The same year Adam Faith starred in What A Whopper he also played himself in a small role at the end of that other classic of the genre, What A Carve Up! Starring Sid James, Kenneth Connor, Esma Cannon and Shirley Eaton, I've got a blog on that little gem coming up soon. 

And finally, according to the internet future Carry On and Coronation Street actress Amanda Barrie makes an uncredited appearance in What A Whopper as a "Chelsea Girl" - let me know if you spot her! Hopefully this little gem will make another appearance in the Talking Pictures TV schedule again soon.

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  1. I loved the first 20 minutes of this - Charles Hawtrey as a lumberjack-shirted bohemian! - but my recording equipment failed so I didn't get to see the rest. Hope they reschedule. However, what's the name of the future Carry On and Coronation Street actress that you mention?