THE SHILLINGBURY BLOWERS
UK, 1980, 90 minutes, Colour.
Trevor Howard, Robin Nedwell, Diane Keen, John Le Mesurier.
Directed by Val Guest.
The Shillingbury Blowers is a pleasant British Comedy. It echoes the comedies, especially from the Ealing Studios, of the '40s and '50s. However, it was made in 1980. (Director Val Guest is a veteran English writer/director who has worked in the British industry since the '30s.)
The film takes a village situation, highlights on the idiosyncrasies, especially the old-fashioned band which has been in operation since the end of World War Two. The group of old men band together, not for making music, but for expressing themselves - which they do, very much out of tune. There is a crisis in the town and a new band conductor is appointed. They refer to him as 'Young upstart'. The film traces with the gentle humorous touch the conflict of the band and the new conductor. This gives rise for the screenplay to make comment on the changing spirit of England - with many a nod to the good old days of the past.
The film is attractively photographed in colour, has a rather more gentle Trevor Howard - in comparison with his crusty old men of the '60s and '70s films. Robin Nedwell, of the Doctor series, is effective as the hero - and Diane Keane attractive as his wife. John Le Mesurier and Patrick Newell have good roles as the Mayor and one of the councillors.
Running time is brief. Despite the very old-fashioned style, the film is enjoyable. It gave rise to a series.
1. The impact of traditional British comedy? The gentle satire? The picture of Old England - with nostalgia? This film as an old-fashioned look at England and its past - in the old-fashioned style?
2. The effectiveness of the colour photography of the English village? The focus on individuals? The band? The importance of the band music - and the variety of styles in which it is played?
3. The English tradition of the village, the mayor and his Council, the band? The in-group within the village - and the exclusion of outsiders and upstarts? How well were these conventions used to present an Old English village, its old inhabitants and their memories of the past, the new trying to fit in?
4. The plausibility of the plot: the realistic picture of the town - the details of crowds, shoppers, people going to the town fair, to the band presentations? The contrast with the implausibility: the doddery (Dad's Arny style) Council meetings, the Dad's Army kind of band and the members? The All Creatures Great and Small touch with the difficult birth of the calf? The contrast between the older generation and the younger? The work-to-rule band practices? The final presentation - out of key? The ironies and humour of the implausible situation?
5. Salty and his leading of the band? His establishing it? Trevor Howard as gentle and crusty? His leading of the music - out of key? The councillors and their rejecting him and his hurt reaction? His resignation? His wanting to play the trumpet for Peter but afraid? His not wanting to fail? The discussions with Sadly about the garden? His gradually coming towards the band? Playing the trumpet successfully? Participation in the auditions? His final being afraid? His playing and taking over when Peter stepped down? The heroism of the Old English gentleman? The comparison with the other old members of the band? Their backgrounds, skills, lack of skill? Their meetings, drinking together, working to rule?
6. Jake and his leadership in the band? His suspicions? Making decisions? The work-to-rule? The hostility towards Peter? The birth of the calf and his accepting Peter? His being late for the performance - going by car, bike, tractor? His being on-side and accepting the young upstart?
7. Peter as the man from the city, love for Sally, trying to fit in? Reaction to the out-of-key music? Accepting the conductorship? His putting up with the old men? Their playing to rule? His determination? The clashes with Sallu over the band? His recognising their staccato style? Their performance? Qualifying for the competition? His puzzle? Helping Jake with the calf? His laughing at the final performance and letting them play just for the fun of it?
8. Sally and her support, her change of heart, helping Salty? An attractive wife?
9. John Le Mesurier as the doddery Mayor, the double-dealing and doubletalk? The councillors, the accounts, the criticism of Salty, the trying to get round situations? The poke at English government?
10. The band recitals - the out-of-key music, the successful presentations, the staccato performances, the finale?
11. The patriotism, the spirit of Old England - and the nostalgia for it?
12. The gentle touch, the humour? The old-fashioned style for the '80s - enjoyable nonetheless?