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Forgotten Films

The Bed-Sitting Room (1969)


This piece was originally written as part of a ‘forgotten films’ column for another website. It was never published, so I’ve reformatted it for this blog and added a little bit of additional content. As I covered two films in the original article, I will split them into two separate (easy to read) posts – for your reading pleasure. The first ‘forgotten film’ is cult satirical comedy apocalypse, The Bed-Sitting Room


Directed by Richard Lester (of Superman 2 and A Hard Day’s Night fame) and written with a satirically bizarre wit by Spike Milligan and John Antrobus, this little seen British gem needs to find more of a following. Set in a post apocalyptic Great Britain after a nuclear misunderstanding, which lasted just 2 minutes and 28 seconds.

Only a handful of people are left surviving in the underground stations while a single monarch stands in the shape of Mrs Ethel Shroake, while Lord Fortnum fears he shall mutate into a ‘bed-sitting room’. Below ground on the circle line lives Penelope and her parents who, after having eaten all of their chocolate bars, decide to venture above ground and find a suitable husband for their seventeen-month pregnant daughter.

That is just the tip of the satirical iceberg because for a mere 88-minute film, more British strangeness permeates through the filmic seams.  While it might seem a tad odd to the more casual viewer, Lester’s feature contains a plethora of comedic talent that many viewers would have grown up with.

When a film features the likes of Dudley Moore, Peter Cook (as two policemen respectfully), Spike Milligan, Arthur Lowe (of Dad’s Army) and Frank Thornton (of Are You Being Served), there is no need to fear of the films quality. The Bed-Sitting Room contains some of the most genuinely bizarre moments found within any genre of British cinema.


Its comedy structure is similar in vain to Douglas Adam’s own writing style with its use of wordage, Its as though each moment has a lyrical flow that has been lacking in most modern comedy. It’s a genuine shame to have very few Post-Apocalyptic films within British Film; this does however allow Lester’s film to standout with its quintessentially quirky British sensibilities.

What other film would you see someone give birth to a seventeen-month old mutant baby and have the only surviving BBC news presenter still broadcaster from a broken television set in the middle of a wasteland?  To most film fans knowledge, it would seem very little comes close. Seek out this cinematic pleasure and bow down to the wonder of Milligan, Lester and Mrs Ethel Shroake of 393 A Leytonstone.


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May 2013
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