'Till Death Us Do Part Review
'Till Death Us Do Part, a spinoff from the British sitcom of the same name, opens in 1939, with loudmouth Alf Garnett (Warren Mitchell) down the pub, telling anyone who'll listen that Hitler, who has yet to invade Poland, will sit tight in those countries where the Nazis are already the occupying forces. With the British warning him against any Eastern expansion, Hitler will rein in his ambitions. At least, that's how Garnett has it. Weeks later, though, Hitler invades Poland and Garnett is proven to be as successful in foreseeing Hitler's plans as he will be in everything else he turns his thoughts to. Neville Chamberlain, who Garnett praises, is replaced by Winston Churchill, the war, which Garnett says will last only a matter of weeks, goes on for six long years and the bomb shelter that Garnett built in his back garden gets dusty when wife Else (Dandy Nichols) refuses to leave her bed for it even at the height of the Blitz.
Garnett isn't having a good war and before he knows it, things get worse - there's rationing, he's drafted into the services, he's refused a drink in his local and one night during the Blitz, he spills the piss pot on himself. But things look up with the end of the war. Garnett will eventually buy his own home, Else gets pregnant and will eventually give birth to Rita (Una Stubbs) and some twenty years later, England win the world cup. In the midst of that, though, Garnett wars with his daughter over the political direction of the country, with her choice of boyfriend, then fiance and then husband before, finally, the local council, who have placed a compulsory purchase order on his house, paying him only a fraction of what he bought it for. Capitalism has never tasted quite so bitter...
Vince Powell often said of Eddie Booth, the hero, if that's the right word, of Love Thy Neighbour that he was proof that the show's heart was in the right place given how much of an idiot he was. Having watching both some of the original show and the spinoff film, I'm not sure that I entirely agree but it would be easier to nod one's head if Johnny Speight, writer of 'Till Death Us Do Part, had said the same. In the case of Alf Garnett, Speight has created a character who might be charitably described as all mouth and no trousers, which is literally the case as he rises out of the bath to stand to attention for the national anthem. Time and again, Speight writes Garnett as a man without one sound idea, who history proves wrong with such regularity that were it you or I we'd have learned to keep our traps shut. However, as anyone who's spent any time in a dirty drinking hole will testify, every bar from here to Mumbai has an Alf Garnett at its end with an opinion on everything and knowledge of nothing.
And it is funny, sometimes very funny with satire that's often piercing. Describing himself as a patriot, Speight has a lot of fun tying Garnett's arguments into knots as he tries to defend Hitler whilst his ill-tempered political debating with his daughter descends into Garnett tearing down a poster of Harold Wilson from his front window. One tends to sympathise with Else Garnett who then adds that all those posters on the windows - Garnett's of Ted Heath's remains in place - do nothing but make the living room darker. Else, as much in Garnett's shadow here as she was in the show, is a rare voice of reason in 'Till Death Us Do Part but clearly enjoys watching Garnett squirm when notice arrives of his drafting into the military. But there are also honest moments of slapstick, such as the kids laughing at Garnett appearing out of doors dressed only in a towel or his falling down into a flooded bomb shelter.
Perhaps not a great film and still one that I can understand viewers feeling uncomfortable with - not so much for the character of Garnett but how his words can be quoted by the far right - 'Till Death Us Do Part is still one of the most enjoyable British sitcom spinoffs that I've watched in this recent run. I suspect that's largely because it doesn't take a character or tie and tie them, in what looks like being against their will, into a longer storyline but actually creates a film around them that can stand apart from the television sitcom. That's what works best with 'Till Death Us Do Part as it did with the two Steptoe And Son films and, similarly and against the man's character, one actually has some sympathy for the character of Garnett.
Looking fine and somewhere between the rotten transfers of Love Thy Neighbour and Ooh, You Are Awful and the more decent release of Steptoe And Son Ride Again, 'Till Death Us Do Part looks fine on a standard television screen but doesn't really work when viewed on a big screen. Whilst one could be sympathetic and say that perhaps Optimum had the 17" ITT televisions of the 'Till Death Us Do Part era in mind when creating this DVD, I doubt if that's actually the case. However, like those other releases in the range, there are scratches, white spots and variable contrast and colour throughout. Once again, I suspect that the quality of the transfer has much to do with the quality of the print given to Optimum and that financial concerns led them to issue it largely as they got it. The audio track is about the same, which ensures the dialogue is clear but which is no better. Finally, with this being an Optimum release, there are no subtitles.
Like the rest of the comedy spinoffs released by Optimum, there are no extras on this DVD.