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BERNARD McKENNA & COLIN BOSTOCK-SMITH
The Odd Job


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Arrow, London, 1978
price: 90p; 208 pages


The blurb on the back:

'Got any odd jobs?'
Arthur Harris looked down at the little man in the scabby leather coat and the beret. Yes — Arthur had an odd job to be done: Arthur wanted someone to kill him. Since Fiona had left him the previous day, he'd decided there was nothing left to live for. Unfortunately, when it came to suicide, Arthur was a bungler. He'd tried and failed; and tried again... and failed! So a bargain is struck - the Odd Job man will do it for him: swiftly, suddenly, efficiently. Then Fiona returns and life is sweet again. Arthur no longer wants to die. But lurking somewhere in the city, anonymous and resolute, the Odd Job man is planning to keep his side of the bargain...


opening lines:
Fiona Harris had been married to Arthur Harris for ten years to the day when she left him.


Originally written by Bernard McKenna as a TV play starring Ronnie Barker and David Jason (as part of the ITV Six Dates With Barker series in 1971), this was revived in 1978 as a movie with Graham Chapman taking over Barker’s role and – despite the intended casting of Keith Moon – with Jason returning. Unfortunately, what was a neat little idea as a half-hour programme was slow and lethargic at feature-length.

For what it’s worth, Jason plays an odd job man hired by a man whose wife has left him and who wants to die. But she’s since returned and now he doesn’t want to die. That’s it. And hilarious set-pieces should result. Only they don’t. Jason is decent enough in one of his early roles, all twitching discomfort, but Chapman was never a good enough actor to sustain a movie as the main star.

The novelization, unsurprisingly, is even less entertaining. McKenna’s screenplay was adapted by Colin Bostock-Smith – soon to become a mainstay of TV comedy writing with Who Dares Wins, Alas Smith & Jones &c. – and by now the thin material was being stretched beyond endurance.

Very poor.


ARTISTIC MERIT: 1/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
1/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
2/5


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