Double Bunk (1961)

+++ Newlyweds Jack and Peggy are in a bit of a pickle: they need to find somewhere to live, but their financial means are limited. So the houseboat they are offered seems like a dream come true: not only affordable, but also romantic (although in need of some serious TLC).
But it soon becomes clear why the owners were so eager to sell, as there are strings attached to living on a boat. And to make things even more complicated, Jack has been talked into taking the house boat for a trip down the Thames, much to the chagrin of Peggy. And just as you think matters could not get worse, they inevitably do. +++

This is a charming black&white comedy. One in which the relationship of the leading couple does not feel stuffy; nor is it being presented as raunchy, as might be the case in later 1960s fare.
Ian Carmichael is very charming as Jack, and he is paired perfectly with the intelligent and independently-minded Peggy, played by Thora Hird’s daughter Janette Scott.
Jack & Peggy have to deal with their unpleasant neighbour/landlord Watson, but the real trouble starts when Jack’s “friend”/colleague Sid (Sidney James) invites himself onto the boat, with his stripper girl-friend Sandra (Liz Fraser) in tow.

Sidney James is of course best known as a cornerstone of the Carry On franchise, but I feel his character in Double Bunk – with his tall tales and his scheming selfishness – might have been more influenced by his character on the shows he did with Tony Hancock; and that might explain why his character shares James’s first name – because that was also the case with his character on Hancock’s Half Hour.
Liz Fraser, who appeared in four Carry On films, plays the stripper Sandra as a likeable but ditzy character who is never raunchy, and not even knowingly saucy. Sandra is portrayed as being sexy without knowing why and without exploiting it. There are certain similarities to Fraser’s character in Carry On Regardless.
There are a number of famous faces in this film. Most prominently Dennis Price (Kind Hearts and Coronets), who seems to enjoy the role of the condescending and ruthless Watson. But there is also a brief sequence with Reginald Beckwith and Irene Handl.

Written and directed by C. M. Pennington-Richards, Double Bunk was made by the independent producer consortium Bryanston, which had been founded in 1959 in the wake of Ealing’s demise. Operating for less than five years, Bryanston produced more than thirty films.

The film is not exactly fast-paced, nor are the jokes lined up in short succession. But the film moves along nice and steady and never drags. And while the plot is somewhat thin, the story is far superior to the other river-boat-trip comedy I recently watched: Drei Mann in einem Boot (incidentally also from 1961, but in colour).
Everything here works nicely, and the performances are very good. I’ll rate Double Bunk at 6.5 to 7.0 out of 10.


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