In Review: I’m Alright Jack (1959) on Blu-ray

by Ann Jackson on 28/01/2015


I’m Alright Jack (1959) is a sequel to an earlier film from the Boulting twins named Privates Progress (1956). The inept Stanley Windrush staggers through humorous job try-outs in industry, expecting a cushy management role. He fails and is persuaded to take a blue collar job. Windrush is clearly being used by the company directors to create a situation and is so gormless he causes a nation-wide strike before he finds out what is really going on.

A film in much the same vein as the British comedy of the time; slightly smutty and hamfisted laughs bristling with sexism. The usual stereotypes include a deeply cynical picture of characters – the decent and moral upperclass twit, the work-shy Union/workers and the greedy bosses.

The Boulting Brothers had succeeded previously in serious drama such as Brighton Rock (1947), Seven Days to Noon (1950) and others but despite their acclaimed success in film noir; followed the British Film industry trend, and made some satirical comedy; taking most of their stable of actors along with them.

Inevitably for the time, there are some racist comments in a couple of places. The film is also incongruously bookended with female nudity, giving us Carry On and Benny Hill type moments; perhaps used to extend its box office popularity as it was the UK’s biggest grossing film of 1959.

Despite the extremely dated style of the film, I’m Alright Jack is interesting and just about resists classification as a relic. It showcases the push and pull of different interests and positively exudes the resentment felt by a previous ruling class about the workers (undeservedly) having a power they didn’t have in the past. It also gives us a taste of life and nostalgia of a pre-1960s Britain, a feel of the mood of the country at the time. The acting was of a fair standard throughout but it can be said that for the most part these were good actors in inferior roles. Sellers is very good, that role earning him a BAFTA – the film screenplay also won a BAFTA (1960).

Spike Milligan comments in the extras that the Boulting twins were decidedly anti-union and that this was perhaps the main message of the film. This and other criticisms certainly come across but Sellers’ depiction of the droning, dogmatic and wistful Kite manages to deliver us an interesting snippet of a man devoted to the idealism of Communism. I can’t recall any other film of the era that does so in this way.

Blu-ray extras: Interviews with Spike Milligan and Liz Fraser and a short film ‘The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film’. Milligan speaks of Peter Sellers’ problems with his role, and how he made it his own. Fraser reflects on her first cinema role and how it came about, also provides some insight into her involvement in Carry On. The Running, Jumping & Standing Still Film was made By Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers et al to trial a new type of camera. Not meant for release, it is typical Milligan; bipolar and at times hilarious – all set in a field.

Ann has awarded I’m Alright Jack on Blu-ray two Torches of Truth


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