Saturday, April 9, 2011

Dudley Moore & Ralph Richardson in The Bed Sitting Room (1969)

Obscurity factor: 7

This film is where theater of the absurd and the cold war threat of nuclear holocaust meet. It concerns the remaining citizens of London, who wander the ruins of the city after the Third World War (which lasted 2 minutes and 28 seconds, including the signing of the peace treaty). The effects of radiation on the few survivors have led to strange mutations. We meet the doctor, of sorts (Michael Hordern), who is treating a lord (Ralph Richardson) who is convinced he will become a bed sitting room. He eventually does. We also meet a family, living on a tube train. They leave to wander the ruins with the rest of the meager population. The mother (Mona Washbourne) turns into a cupboard, and the father, a parrot, who is eventually eaten by the other family members because of the food shortage. There is no shortage of irreverence and humor in this portrayal of a truly bleak subject. The point being that even after nuclear holocaust people will cling to the meaningless customs and habits of society. The brilliant visual and circumstantial gags that so artfully make that point include a wandering reporter (Frank Thornton) for the BBC who positions himself inside your hollowed out television set and proceeds to give the news, and policemen (Dudley Moore and Peter Cook) who attempt to keep everyone moving to avoid being targets in an unlikely followup attack.

There is no shortage of available information on this film, which has become the darling of film bloggers everywhere (count me among the guilty!). It's such a brilliant example of the off kilter British humor that became a hallmark of shows like Monte Python. It has certainly attained cult status. It is, however, still quite obscure in mainstream circles. The settings include recognizable landmarks of London as if they had been decimated and bleak expanses of rubble and sand meant to represent the center of the city. The conventions of the city, like the tube are used to great effect both for mood and comedy. Look for Rita Tushingham and a very beautiful, young Richard Warwick as the young couple and Marty Feldman as a male nurse.

This is hard to find on DVD, though it has been released in Great Britain by the BFI on both DVD and BlueRay. Above is the trailer, which was been uploaded to YouTube by BritHumor2. You can also see the full film on YouTube in the playlist linked to here:

Obscurity factor: 7 (on DVD, has cult following, otherwise virtually unknown)


  1. There's something about the family living on the deserted Tube train which is both absurd and heartbreaking.

  2. I agree. It's such a strange scene, then followed by their exit on the escalator and subsequent fall from the top of it, which is a really funny sight gag.

  3. I remember that the original ad campaign for the US had the tag line:
    "We've got a Bomb* on our hands" ( but I don't remember what the asterix noted. )

  4. I remember seeing that in my research, and noticing that the asterisk didn't seem to reference anything...