Friday, 17 July 2015


'Otley' is about fifteen minutes too long, but it's a fun film about the rather shabby world of espionage that features a stellar cast of British character actors, led by the great Tom Courtenay as Gerald Arthur Otley, a shiftless moocher and compulsive pincher of ornaments who, by sheer idiocy, finds himself at the centre of a web of slightly incomprehensible intrigue.

A nice mix of comedy and drama, 'Otley' is very sixties (never a problem in my book - or on my blog, anyway), but gives us a glimpse of the 'real' London behind the swing: the markets and bedsits, cafes, pubs and tube stations, people in polo necks and socks that need darning. The grooviest person in it is Freddie Jones, who is so sharply dressed it makes Beau Brummel look like Worzel Gummidge.     

Tom Courtenay is excellent, as always. His light Yorkshire accent, bony face and slightly camp delivery are miles away from the usual leading man, and he's not afraid to appear cowardly and pathetic, which is probably why he never made it big in action films. He's also very funny and, at times, the self-obsessed, duplicitous Otley is reminiscent of a (slightly) more grown up Billy Liar, which makes you wonder sometimes if all the running around and gun play is simply part of some elaborate, extended fantasy. 

The rest of the cast is a veritable who’s who of contemporary character actors, including James Villiers, Alan Badel, Leonard Rossiter, James Cossins, Ronald Lacey, Frank Middlemass, Geoffrey Bayldon and, of course, our beloved Freddie Jones. The last two on the list are still with us (aged 91 and 87, respectively) and, I hope, will remain so for a good few years to come. Romy Schneider makes an attractive female lead, but then she always did, particularly when sporting thigh length white pvc go go boots as she does here.  

Light hearted and full of twists, it’s the sort of film that should be on TV right now but, for whatever reason, never is.  Bloody nowadays TV.


  1. A fine choice Paul. I remember seeing Otley one Sunday afternoon probably in the late 70s or early 80s. At the time I really enjoyed it, but have never seen it since. 80+ channels and no Otley. Come to think of it The Knack could do with being shown as well.

    1. Thanks, Keith. I think 'The Knack' might simply have fallen foul of changing attitudes, given that there are an awful lot of rape 'jokes' in it. Or, it could just be that it's in black and white and, wherever possible, TV tries not to show us those sixty years of film history.

  2. Think your right about that Paul. B & W seems to be a no no on the 80+ (and the rest) channels that we seem to have.

  3. Hi Paul. I remember recording this film during the late 80's, having embraced the whole British 'kitchen sink' releases earlier, shown as a season on Channel 4 (when they were great- and listened to their viewers' needs), and really enjoying Tom Courtenay's performance. Your excellent piece pricked me to seek out the DVD and buy it. Your blog has awoken so many great memories within me and through you, I have sought out both favourite old films and others of which I had no recollection of. Please keep up the great work. You are a major source of inspiration!