Remembered more now for featuring one of Peter Seller’s first major film roles than it’s beginnings as a follow up to 1956’s Private’s Progress, I’m All Right Jack took several of the same cast and characters and planted them into a new situation.
Ian Carmichael, who shall always be the voice of Ratty in The Wind in the Willows to me, plays the bumbling Stanley Windrush. A upper-class bbuffoon who struggles to find a “real job” post army that he’s actually any good at. Spurred on by his conniving uncle Bertram (Dennis Price) and Sidney De Vere Cox (a boo-hissable Richard Attenborough) Stanley takes on a job as a labourer down at his uncles’ missile factory. There he meets with his old Major from the army Hitchcock (Terry-Thomas, playing Terry Thomas), who oversees the place and Fred Kite (Peter Sellers) who heads up the labourers union.
Directed and produced by the Boulting Brothers, John and Roy, I’m All Right Jack came during a period where the duo where focusing on satires about a variety of subjects. In this case the industrial work force of 1950’s Britain. The high class bosses bring in time managers to see if machines can do the job of ten men faster, the working class labourers view all higher ups and new comers with suspicion that their jobs are in danger. Windrush perfectly sums up the gentle radicalising of the elites as he meekly wishes to enter a good “honest job” but lacks the skills or fortitude to do, think of it as an early run of Pulp’s ‘Common People’. Margaret Rutherford turns up to do what she did best as Windrush’s Aunt Dolly, dis-paring of her nephew’s quest for lower standing.
It can be no simple coincidence that Peter Sellers decided to give Kite a somewhat Hitler-esque moustache. He is one of the most believable caricatures that has ever graced the screen. Inflated by his own importance within the union, he’s an non-too-subtle swipe at the leftist leaning workforce coming to prominence in post-war Britain.
Re-released in a pristine Blu-Ray version I’m All Right Jack may have lost some of it’s edge over the years. Down more to the fact that we’re surrounding by a sarcastic view point from all forms of media these days, it’s a diluting of the culture rather than the film that is to blame. It still stands up well on it’s mature comedy feet. Terry Thomas is on hand to describe someone as a “shower, an absolute shower”. John Le Mesurier is there being his effervescently charming self whilst mixing in some hand-ringing anxiety. Everyone seems to be having fun, Sellers though does stand above the pack. His Mr. Kite feels like one of his more-understated performances as though he is playing a real-life fuss pot who is trying to act in a comedy film. It’s a fine turn and one that is perhaps the main reason the film is remembered so well today.
I’m All Right Jack is out now on re-stored Blu-Ray and DVD via Studio Canal now.