How best to give an overview of Vic Reeves to those who might not be familiar with him? Well, put it this way, one of the key influences on the comedian, artist, actor and pop star, is Joseph Beuys, a German performance artist who spent a week covered in gold paint and honey wandering around an art gallery whispering sweet nothings into the ear of dead Hare. And yet, he is also a soap opera obsessive who once performed ‘I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts’ with Paul McCartney and Jimmy Page at Jeff Beck’s wedding. In short, he is a sort of hybrid between Salvador Dalí, Tommy Cooper and Bryan Ferry and he even has the impression to prove it (see the bottom of the piece).
Unsurprisingly, such a man takes influence from anywhere he can and one of his favourite realms happens to be classic films. In an interview with the Radio Times, Bob Mortimer’s other half listed off six of his favourites; starting with The Flying Deuces.
Laurel and Hardy are self-evident touchstones for the work of Reeves & Mortimer who once spent a week deconstructing the comedy of the old duo while trapped in Los Angeles. The Flying Deuces sees Laurel and Hardy join the French Foreign Legion in a bid to help Ollie get over his failed marriage proposal. Naturally, this rather elaborate subtext is underscored with the usual high jinks throughout.
His second pick is indicative of the fact that there is a lot going on in the wild creative welter of Reeves. Woman in a Dressing Gown is a 1957 British drama featuring plenty of scenes where dialogue is conducted at arm’s length as a torrid love triangle unfurls with a dose of classic gripping melodrama. Starring a young Yvonne Mitchell, the tale is akin to some northern kitchen-sink version of the Leonard Cohen track ‘Suzanne’.
Next up is a film that has proven to be one of the most influential flicks on British culture in a very unassuming manner. A fresh-faced Albert Finney stars in Vic Reeves favourite film of all time, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, as a factory facing the fateful wrath of simply trying to get his end away. As it happens, the Alan Sillitoe novel is also where Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys picked up the title of their debut album.
The following quote from where the Arctic Monkeys’ title is derived should give you a fair flavour of the film: “All I’m out for is a good time – all the rest is propaganda. I’m me and nobody else; and whatever people think or say I am, that’s what I’m not because they don’t know a bloody thing about me. Ay, by God, It’s a hard life if you don’t weaken, if you don’t stop the bastard government from grinding your face in the muck, though there ain’t much you can do about it unless you start making dynamite to blow their four-eyed clocks to bits.”
Reeves’ (or rather Jim Moir’s) next pick is Whistle Down the Wind. The classic 1961 film comes with the following plotline: “When an injured wife murderer takes refuge on a remote Lancashire farm, the owner’s three children mistakenly believe him to be the Second Coming of Christ.” The Bryan Forbes-directed film is crammed with Reeves & Mortimer-esque lines such as: “It isn’t Jesus, son. It’s just a fella.”
Vic Reeves’ six favourite classic films:
- The Flying Deuces
- Woman in a Dressing Gown
- Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
- Whistle Down the Wind
- Hell Drivers
Next up is Hell Drivers from 1957, a film that seems very apt given the current HGV driver crisis in the UK and the prisons being brought in to help solve it. The film that sports the tagline “DEATH IS AT EVERY BEND!” sees an ex-convict trying to leave his criminal ways behind him as he enters the born-again world of gravel transport. Needless to say, Reeves clearly prefers the matter-of-fact rather than Marvel.
Lastly, he champions the film Villain from 1971. A movie with perhaps the wildest pedigree in history. For one, it was written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, the duo behind the British comedy series Porridge. Assisting them on the script was Godfather actor Al Lettieri and fronting the cast was none other than Richard Burton playing a bisexual cockney gangster.