Tom Courtney is a personal hero. After seeing his turn in The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, I was convinced he was the anti-establishment hero I wanted to be. In that film he was a cross between angry young man and exhausted competitor. Fatigued at life but trying to take on the system and those ‘Fascists’ telling everyone what to do. So, when Otley came up for review, I literally jumped at the chance. Here Courtney plays Gerald Arthur Otley or ‘Gerry’ to one and all. He is a cross between a wide boy and fish out of his depth. You see Otley has got himself in to something he is unable to shake. In between beds, he asked an acquaintance for a couch to rest on. It seemed a fair trade, as Otley sold it him. When said acquaintance is murdered it starts to get uncomfortable. Otley is in the frame. The police take an interest in him and so it seems do spy organisations aplenty.
Giving equal measure of spy spoof and subtle swipes at the establishment, Otley is a delightful piece of sixites send up. Courtney comes across as a man who (as cinema often has) is caught up in something outside his comprehension or control. He plays it throughout with a swagger and enough personality to make it never fall over into silliness. The cast are excellent but my favourite is Leonard Rossiter. I still remember him as Reginald Perrin and loved the repeats through the late 80s and 90s. Here he is the spy handler and trigger man but matches Courtney’s swagger with a rye smirk that suites the whole very well indeed. Dick Clement direction plays to these strengths. With the camera embracing the actors or more meditative fair. Ian La Frenais script keeps the story tight enough to hold it together but adds humour and pace, to entertain. Often infusing slapstick with fragility.
To the disc (after some comments on the previous reviews it has been decided to expand this section! Lets see what you guys think!)
High Definition remaster – Having never seen the DVD version or the film screened in the cinema it is hard to compare. I can however say that the underground (Nottinghill encase you care) station sequence was fascinating. It unearths the dreary place we travel from with the soft 60s stock absorbing all those colours and the blu ray meeting it head on. So lovely then. Also the sequences (not to spoil) in a sauna and fanciful villain lair look stunning because of this colour variance.
Original mono audio – Strong and bold sounds of the era. The score comes alive here and compare it to the You tube score to see it light years ahead. I sometimes wish you could have a soundtrack only score for a disc like this. The film would be great as a soundtrack to my life!
Audio commentary with director Dick Clement and film historian Sam Dunn (2018) – Dick Clement explores how the film played out but for me Dunn is investigative and probes for details. The conversation in said sauna is a wealth of information and as I have to tread the fine line between revealing to much, I can only say listen to it.
Tom Courtenay on ‘Otley’ – Personal friends with one more than the other at the start, Tom gives us insight into why the film was made and why he did it. I love Tom and wished that we had another hour of him talking but 6 mins is all you get, mores the pity. Although if you like you could read in the excellent booklet an interview with him.
Laura Mayne essay- Explores Tom as Otley and makes an interesting point about this films relationship with another great film ‘Billy Lair’ (Otley as Billy in the future?) She also explores Spy send ups and does so without missing a beat. Well worth look at.
INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES:
• High Definition remaster
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary with director Dick Clement and film historian Sam Dunn (2018)
• The Guardian Lecture with Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (2008): archival audio recording of an interview conducted by Dick Fiddy at London’s National Film Theatre
• Tom Courtenay on ‘Otley’ (2018, 6 minutes): a new interview with the renowned British actor
• Ian La Frenais on ‘Otley’ (2018, 17 mins): new interview with the acclaimed co-writer of Otley
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet
with a new essay by Laura Mayne, an extract from Martin Waddell’s original novel, location reports, archival interviews with Tom Courtenay, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits
• World premiere on Blu-ray
• Limited Edition of 3,000 copies