Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Comedy Has a Certain Knack

Cleveland Press July 30, 1965

Ann Jellicoe's slim, thin and plotless play -- a success in London and off-Broadway in New York -- has been opened up wide for the screen. Instead of static conversation that went on for three acts in the one-bedroom set, the movie has the limitless setting of all London and a fluid camera makes the motion picture anything but static.

"The Knack" refers to the amazing success a cool musician (Ray Brooks) has with women. Lacking the knack but desiring it is his school teacher-landlord (Michael Crawford).

The immediate object of their attention is a wide-eyed innocent (Rita Tushingham) who is looking for the YWCA. Adding to the confusion is an off-beat artist (Donal Donnelly) who paints everything white -- walls, widows, mirrors -- everything.

THE MOVIE is filled with sight gags, Keystone cop chases, fantasy sequences, camera tricks and throw-away lines. But for all of its disorganization the pieces fall gently into place at the end.

Best of all is the transporting of a great iron bed on wheels from a junkyard to the apartment through London streets with Crawford, Donnelly and Miss Tushingham pushing, pulling and riding. They use it for a trampoline, tie it to the rear bumper of an auto, mount it on oil drums and float it down the river.

For all of its candidness about sex, the film is more innocent than most and director Richard Lester and screen writer Charles Wood make it clear that there is more going on in the mind than in the bedroom.

These are kookie characters in a zany world and Lester and Wood provide candid camera closeups of the more normal citizenry commenting on their antics.

"If you ask me, they're a new breed of characters altogether," comments one.

This is a new breed of film too, free form and antic. For all of its derivativness, Lester's combination of elements has a freshness to it.