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Home > Film

Robin Ince's Top 30,000 Films Of All Time

#29,997: Holiday On The Buses

2 May 2003

LP Hartley came up with an infinitely quoteable line in The Go-Between (you know the book they adapted into a film with Alan Bates as a rough hewn man of the soil and Julie Christie and the boy who went on to get confused at Hanging Rock where the picnic was in that film).

Anyway the quote from the book was very simply... "The past is another country, they do things differently there," and no film illustrates this more than Holiday on the Buses (see how quickly we plummet from high brow to low brow).

Though made a mere 30 years ago (and within three short years of the Go-Between) Holiday on the Buses is an amazing plummet back into the supposed world of the working class in the seventies, it wasn't all flashing your tits and sinking alcopops in those days, it was being a 35 year old virgin drinking a half of Watneys and getting a clip round the ear for looking lasciviously at a man
under 68.

For those of you who don't know, On The Buses was an inexplicably successful TV sitcom about two middle-aged men, one a bus conductor (Bob Grant), one a driver (Reg Varney) who get into a variety scrapes as they try and bed women young enough to be the grandchildren of their overly promiscuous teenage daughters.


The show was so successful that it led to three hugely popular big screen adventures. Nowadays it's hard to imagine a trite sitcom such as this not only getting on at the local multiplex but also being the box office success of the year, imagine My Family having a premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square with the Queen and Denise Van Outen present, yet this is pretty much what happened with this startling piece of cinematic ineptitude (the first On the Buses movie was the biggest domestic money spinner of the year).

Holiday on the Buses was the last in the trilogy of cinematic On the Buses movies and yet again dealt with a man in his late fifties trying, and for some reason, succeeding with getting off with teenage starlets in enormous frilly pants. These films were tremendous wish fulfillment, a chance for middle-aged, balding, purple faced men to go to the cinema and imagine that the dolly bird (for that was her name) on the screen could be theirs.

Holiday on the Buses starts as usual at the depot where Mr Bronson from Grange Hill (Michael Sheard) is trying to mend his car with the help of Blakey, Stephen Lewis (20 years unemployed then put in Last of the Summer Wine, still doing same 'hilarious' gurning face). Unfortunately saucy young thing Reg Varney (actually 56 when the film was made) sees a woman's breasts fall out of her poorly made woolen blouse and crashes the bus in many hilarious ways accompanied by the funny sounds of xylophone and swanee whistle. Sadly he not only crushes Blakey's foot but also injures Mr Bronson with the bonnet of his car. The next thing you know, they are all down the labour exchange (it's the seventies) and Blakey is more than happy to get a job that means he'll never see Reg and Bob again, he's off to Pontins.


That was Pontins.

Surprise Surprise, who should end up as the Pontins camp bus team, yes it's them lads Reg and Bob, clumsy and salacious as ever.

The film is basically a selection of clumsy and unfinished sketches, or rather finished sketches, but with the finish of each being Blakey getting injured and howling in a wide mouthed and therefore funny manner.

Like so many British films of the time, it is about men behaving like spastic Jack Douglases in their desire for any form of female contact and it makes little sense as to why a 17 year old girl in voluminous frilly pants would hanker after a man who would need a hip replacement within the year. In all these hyper-successful sitcom films (strangely made by Hammer films purveyors of Sapphic vampire romps) the sex is very confused. Michael Robbins, who plays Reg's brother in law, is either full of pent up sexual energy because his wife Olive (you know, the one who eats pickled onions in bed) won't have sex with him, or disgusted to the pit of his stomach because she wants to have sex with him. Women exist in three versions here, the old mum, the sexy dolly bird and the foul hag you all end up married to, but always remember the dolly bird really wants you.

To spice up the movie it has a tremendous supporting cast, award-winning writers Ronald Chesney and Ronald Wolfe create the part of a dirty old man for Wilfred Brambell and Arthur Mullard plays a common bloke (for those of you who don't know Arthur Mullard he once appeared on Top of the Pops singing You're the One that I Want with Dora Bryan. No clearer? Oh well never mind).

Did we live like this? I don't know, but for being a social document in the grand tradition of Alan Sillitoe I think Holiday on the Buses takes the worthy place of number 29,996.

Bubbling Under

Silver Dream Racer

David Essex in full gypsy charm mode, motorcycle racing, a theme song written by the man himself - what could possibly go wrong?

Oh dear, someone forgot to write a script and someone else forgot to direct the actors. Silver Dream racer was the film my sisters came back weeping from after experiencing it at the Watford Odeon, such was the power of David Essex (David gets killed you see, in the final frame), yet now, without Look-In poster magazines, this film hums and ha's in the lower doldrums of the top 30,050, how on earth did David Essex lose the ability to act in the time between That'll Be The Day and this?

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