DVD Review: Spring and Port Wine (1970)
For a very brief spell in the late 60s, Bolton was a location of choice for movie production companies. That was down to one man - Bill Naughton. This native of that town has seen success in converting one of his plays - Alfie - to the big screen, so it seemed logical to try out some of his gritty 'northern' work. The Family Way in 1967 (reviewed here) was the first of these, followed a few years later by Spring and Port Wine.
Both of the 'Bolton' movies started off as stage plays and it shows - if you're big on action and plot, you might be a little disappointed. But if you are a fan of 60s/kitchensink dramas, great acting and equally great writing, you'll want to be on this DVD reissue.
What plot there is revolves around the head of a typical working class Boltonian family of the day, Rafe Crompton (James Mason). He's a father of the old school, head of the house, what he says goes and children, however old, never get 'one up' on him. Aside from Rafe, there's his long-suffering wife Daisy (Diana Coupland) plus daughters Florence and Hilda (Hannah Gordon and Susan George) and sons Harold and Wilfred (Rodney Bewes and Len Jones, the latter better-known as the voice of Joe 90).
Everyday the family eat at the table once the father has got home (and the older children are back from their own jobs), but this one day, something is about to change. It's herrings for tea, but Hilda doesn't want to eat it. As she brings in money, she wants to eat what she likes - but Rafe isn't going to allow his authority to be undermined, instead insisting on the herrings being brought out at every meal time until she does eat it.
She's not the only one rebelling either. Florence has had a marriage proposal, but Rafe is against it, Harold wants to be treated as an adult (or at least, be allowed to smoke in the house), while the youngest, Wilfred, just wants to follow the crowd and be heard. Stood in the middle is Daisy - and when the strain finally shows on her, Rafe finally realises the error of his stubborn ways, accepting that his children are old enough to live their own lives.
See, told you there wasn't much plot. But the main storyline isn't really the thing with Spring and Port Wine, there are so many other facets to it. The sub-plots for one - from the breadline family next door (which includes site favourite Adrienne Posta as daughter Betty) to the romance between Florence and boyfriend Arthur, not to mention the underlying feeling that Hilda might be pregnant by her scooter boy fella. After all, she is off herrings, what else could it be? Oh yes, We even find out why Rafe is so strict and careful with the cash - inevitably for the good of the family. Oh yes, some great walk-on roles too from the likes of Arthur Lowe, Bernard Bresslaw and Ken Parry as the local pawn broker.
But for me, the real star of the show is the scenery on your screen. Ok, I'll be honest, I was brought up in Bolton - not as early as this movie was made, but I do have some memories of the town as it is portrayed in Spring and Port Wine. Long terraced streets rub shoulders with newly-built council houses and those 'dark satanic mills, all just a stone's throw from some stunning open country and long winding waterways. Yes, I'm sure it was 'grim up north' if you spent our working life in a mill or factory, but as the movie shows, it's not half as grim as you might think.
It's nostalgic, it's entertaining, it captures a moment in time and it might even lead to a tear being shed, but above all, Spring and Port Wine is superb slice of northern drama expertly brought to the big screen, backed up by a top-notch cast and a stunning backdrop. The accents might be a bit dodgy at times, but for me, that's probably the only downside (outside of it not being offered on Blu-ray). Well worth seeking out.
Find out more about the DVD at the Amazon website