Time To Pretend – Stanley Long’s ‘Adventures of a Private Eye’ (1977)

3 Aug

‘If ever there was a glamorous job, this has gotta be it. Fast cars, private yachts, flying off to assignments in exotic places… Not that I do any of that… And of course, need I say it, women. You know what? I’ve never known a fella cram so many beautiful women into one day’. The job description? That of a Private Investigator. The second film in Stanley Long’s Adventures trilogy, Adventures of a Private Eye was released in 1977 following on from Adventures of a Taxi Driver.

Our protagonist is Bob West, an inept trainee Private Eye who is so useless he even manages to get his own wallet stolen whilst giving a thief directions. Looking after his bosses office whilst he is away, West decides to take on a case of his own, involving a model being blackmailed over some racy photographs that threaten to destroy her chance at getting her husband’s inheritance. West thinks it’s going to be an easy case… How wrong can he be? Cue dodgy disguises and wonky moustaches, mouse traps, a body hidden in a trunk that goes missing and some seriously bad cabaret dancing.

As Bob West, Christopher Neil is more likeable and attractive than Adventures of a Taxi Driver’s lead Barry Evans. Evans declined the main role in Private Eye and Neil was eventually given the lead role in the last instalment of Long’s Adventures trilogy, Adventures of a Plumbers Mate. Neil had previously starred in other soft core sex comedy fare, including Eskimo Nell (1975) and The Sex Thief (1974), but was well-known in the music industry for being a record producer and singer-songwriter. Whilst Evans appeared at times to be forcing a performance, Neil is far more relaxed in this role, his cheeky grin and comic timing coming across as more natural.

The rest of the cast is full of notable British film and television stars. John Pertwee plays Bob’s boss Judd Blake, reeling off one-liners that display the British sentiment for bluntness as well as being full of double meaning (‘Stick with me and you’ll soon learn to be a successful bugger’). Blake’s infinite wisdom and West’s total lack of knowledge read rather like a Doctor/Companion friendship, with Blake’s office playing substitute TARDIS. Both Diana Dors and Adrienne Posta return from Taxi Driver for memorable cameos, especially Posta channeling Liza Minnelli in her Gentleman’s Club routine.  Suzy Kendall plays the model that approaches West at the start of the film but barely rivals Taxi Driver‘s Judy Geeson for token good looks. Other familiar faces include Liz Fraser and Irene Handl (both from the Carry On film series), Harry H. Corbett (Steptoe and Son) and Ian Lavender (Dad’s Army).

Although I’ve read a few accounts that describe Private Eye as the weakest film in the Adventures trilogy, I personally preferred it to Taxi Driver. It feels more like a comedy with sex thrown in compared to an outright sex comedy. The acting is far more accomplished and enjoyable which makes the picture feel less wooden than others with Neil’s charm and character naivety carrying the film well throughout.

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