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« Coming to DVD: Charlie Bubbles (1967) | Main | Stills gallery from Bronco Bullfrog (1969) »

DVD Review: Charlie Bubbles (1967)

Bubbles_sleeve A British take on the existentialist movie, a new twist on the kitchensink drama. a very 60s road movie or a semi-autobiograpical tale of alienation? Make your own mind up about Charlie Bubbles.

It's certainly a memorable film, if only for the ending - but more about that later. Albert Finney is Charlie Bubbles, the northerner made good. In fact, very good. He's a millionaire author, living a lavish life in London - think servants, Rolls Royce, fine dining and public adoration. But he doesn't quite fit in. He's made his money writing about his northern upbringing and is still seen as the stereotypical northerner by 'the establishment', even if he does now travel in circles usually reserved for the great and the good. Yes, Charlie's loaded, but his life lacks a certain something.

After a drinking bout with fellow northern author Smokey Pickles (Colin Blakely), Bubbles realises he has forgotten a very important engagement - a trip back to Manchester to see his estranged wife Lottie (Billie Whitelaw), not to mention a trip to Old Trafford with his son Jack (Timothy Garland) for a Manchester United game. After a quick change and some food, he jumps into the Rolls with his personal secretary Eliza (Liza Minnelli in her first movie role), setting off on an overnight rive up north.


Will Charlie find what's missing from his life back in Manchester? Or has the he moved on from the gritty streets that made his fortune?

Charlie Bubbles is a fascinating film for a number of reasons, not least because it could be almost autobiographical for both director/star Finney and screenwriter Shelagh 'A Taste Of Honey' Delaney  both of whom made their names and fortunes from those dirty Mancunian streets of the 50s and 60s. Delaney's contribution here really shouldn't be underestimated, with some absolutely killer lines, particularly from the cameos from the likes of Alan Lake (as the hitchhiking RAF man) and Joe Gladwin as the hotel waiter (and old family friend). She also pens some great interaction between Charlie and wife Lottie, not to mention his secretary on the overnight drive. Finney's direction is pretty impressive too, particularly when it comes to contrasting the lavish life of London with the decaying streets of Salford and Manchester.

And as a tale of alienation, it ticks the boxes too. Finney is a superbly downbeat actor and never better here as a man without roots, lost in London and an outsider in his hometown and from his family. Watch his discomfort in the capital and in the luxury hotel in Manchester, but above all, as he drives through the decaying streets in his Rolls, while his secretary snaps the suffering on the faces of the residents. There's a number of subtle touches too - for example, when he's watching the United game in a box, behind a larger glass screen, separated from the 'real' fans in the stadium.

Does Charlie eventually find his real home? Well, that final scene should set things straight. Whether it does or not is open to debate - it's an ending you'll either love as quirky and clever or hate as a complete cop out. I'll say no more - watch it and make up your own mind.

If you're expecting an action flick or a laugh out loud comedy, you're likely to be disappointed. If you fancy an intelligent 60s comedy drama that's big on character, striking to watch and deep enough to watch again and again, you'll find it here. One of Finney's finest moments and certainly worth picking up as a budget release.

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