Saturday, 6 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Going Straight - Going Off The Rails (7 April 1978)

 The final episode. You might have thought that setting a series in prison would have been depressing, but I actually find watching Fletcher eking out a living in a shabby 1978 London to be a glummer experience than his small victories against the system at H.M.P. Slade ever were.

 With his daughter getting married to Godber, hard-pressed Fletcher would like some funds and is tempted when local villain Danny Piper presents him with a criminal opportunity... You can tell that Alfred Lynch's Piper is a bad 'un immediately because he's wearing the familiar gangster's uniform of a white tie over a dark shirt and a camel hair coat. The situation has more immediately obvious dramatic possibilities than comic ones, and each scene has funny lines moment-by-moment but without the lift of any very surprising reversals of expectation.

 The scene that works best as an inherently comical situation is the initial one that brings the two men into contact. Ex-con Fletcher taking his place in a police identity parade is freighted with ironies, which are played lightly. Its the little intimations of the lasting effects of prison that create the best moments, culminating in an ambitious filmed sequence of Fletcher in a pet shop, where a montage of caged birds is mixed in with a soundtrack of slamming prison doors and nightmare visions of Fletcher's face behind bars.

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