The Fast Lady

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Murdoch Troon (Stanley Baxter) is a dour Scot living and working for a local government authority somewhere in the south of London. A shy young man, his main excitement comes from cycling. After he’s forced off the road by an impatient car driver, he tracks down the owner, only to find that he is Commander Chingford (James Robertson Justice), the domineering and acerbic owner of a sportscar distributorship.

Chingford reluctantly pays for the damage to Troon’s cycle, but more significantly, Troon meets Claire (Julie Christie), Chingford’s beautiful blonde daughter. He is smitten with her and determines to buy a car so that he can take her out.

Enter Troon’s friend and fellow lodger, Freddie Fox (Leslie Phillips), a used car salesman and serial cad. He sees a chance to ingratiate himself with Chingford, and also sell Troon a car. The car is a 1927 vintage Bentley Four and a half litre engined Red Label Speed Model, painted in British Racing Green and named The Fast Lady.

Troon has his first driving lesson in a less exciting car, an Austin A40 Farina, which proves to be a comedy of disasters, with a nervous instructor (Eric Barker), but Fox then offers to teach him. The results are equally disastrous.

Unwilling to give up, and determined to prove his love for Claire, Troon bets her father that he can drive the car. An experienced racing driver, Chingford is convinced that Troon has no hope of achieving this — and bets him that he cannot.

Troon takes Chingford for a drive in the Bentley and, as expected, loses the bet. But the tables are turned when Chingford loses Troon’s counter-bet that he (Chingford) can drive back home in less than 30 minutes. He reluctantly allows Claire to go out with Troon in the car.

The day comes for Troon’s driving test. Fox has set him up with a “bent” examiner, but Troon draws the “wrong” examiner. As the test comes to an end (and the examiner is almost certainly going to fail Troon), the car is commandeered by police to chase a Jaguar car driven by escaping bank robbers. The high speed chase takes them through town and country, across a golf course (leaving in its wake, a trail of disasters) and eventually the robbers are (of course) caught. Chingford so admires his driving skill that he allows the couple to get engaged.

REVIEW:

In high school, or maybe it was college, we had a term for the, shall we say more sexual active girls (or those rumored to have been that way). They were known as fast girls. Using that knowledge, one would think that The Fast Lady is some sort of film about slutty girls in school, but that is not the case with this 60s British comedy.

What is this about?

When an angry cyclist finds the motorist who ran him off the road, he falls for the man’s daughter. Now he must reconsider his mode of transportation.

What did I like?

Driver’s ed. Remember the horror of driver’s ed back in school. Mine wasn’t that bad, I just hated driving…and still do. As an adult, I can imagine taking driver’s ed is a living hell, and yet if you move to another state I believe they make you do so to get a new license. Watching Stanley Baxter’s character go through all the rigamoro of learning how to drive and then taking the test with a very unkind instructor, let alone the pressure from his girl’s father and the unusual circumstances that occur just as the test is finishing was just a delight to watch.

Roomie. Baxter is more of the straight-laced type. All of his ducks are in a row, as they say, so you know there has to be some chaos in his life somewhere, right? Enter his housemate, a man who is a total womanizer and a car salesman. It seems more often than not, those two aspects go together. Leslie Phillips gives a character that isn’t as bad as we think. Sure, he tricks his roommate into buying the Fast Lady so that he can make a sale, but he also does everything in his power to help him out. What a guy, right?

Downtown Julie Christie. Leading the romantic aspect of this film is an up and coming actress by the name of Julie Christie, who would go on to big things following her role in Dr. Zhivago. Christie turns on the charm as the rich daughter of the antagonistic Commander Chingford, but with her looks, she didn’t really need to do that. This isn’t a meaty role, and she really is there to just look pretty, flirty, and be a daughter, but she does it very well. One would think she is the Fast Lady.

What didn’t I like?

Grumpy old man. This picture does some things right, such as cast Julie Christie in a role that was suited for her at the time and finding two leading men that have workable chemistry. When it came to find the antagonist, though, I think they just found someone who could look menacing and would go around huffing and puffing all over the place like he was the Big Bad Wolf. James Robertson Justice seems like he is a very competent actor, maybe even an accomplished Thespian, but this is a role that was either beneath him or he was just doing as a favor to someone. I felt like this character should have been more along the lines of Captain von Trapp from The Sound of Music in that he starts off gruff, but is swayed as the film progresses. This was not to be the case, though. I will say he was rather calm and collected during his drive with Baxter.

Bet on it. In most films, when men bet on circumstances involving a female, the woman in question goes off in a huff vowing to never speak to either again. Luckily, this is not a romantic comedy. Julie Christie’s character seems to embrace being the object of this bet, which seems to always be changing terms. Why is this I wonder? Some flaw in the script? A piece of info I happened to miss? Who knows?

Going somewhere? Pacing in this 95 minute flick is fairly decent, but the plot itself is what bring it down. From the start of the film, it feels as if it doesn’t know where it is going, at times feeling like a Keystone cops adventure spliced with any of the Disney car movies that were popular at the time. Personally, I think a little focus would have made this a much more enjoyable outing.

Final verdict on The Fast Lady? Well, it is enjoyable enough, but the main draws are British comedy and old cars. If you’re not into either of these, then this will not appeal to you. That being said, as a casual viewer you may get a kick out of something here and there, but over all this is just an average flick. No reason to rush and watch.

3 out of 5 stars

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