Another in our series of taking a slightly lateral look at the services we offer:
Dry Rot is a 1956 British comedy film that is notable for being the screen debut for actress Heather Sears. Taking its name from the process that decays wood, Dry Rot is a film with interesting origins. The film is an adaptation of a 1954 Whitehall Farce by John Chapman who also wrote the screenplay for the film.
The Whitehall Farces were a series of five long running comic stage shows that played at the Whitehall Theatre in London. Dry Rot was the second stage show and ran from August 1954 to March 1958. The film roughly follows the plot of the stage show, although it does take some liberties with the story.
The plot of Dry Rot concerns the act of gambling, which was illegal at the time in the United Kingdom. The three main characters of the film are bookies: Alf Tubbe, Flash Harry and Fred Phipps (portrayed by Ronald Shiner, Sidney James and Brian Rix respectively). The three bookies concoct a plan to rig a horse race by kidnapping the favourite horse and its jockey.
The plan, although it isn’t without its set-backs, manages to be a sort of success and the three bookies hide the race horse and the jockey in the hidden cellar of the hotel they’re staying at. The movie also has a romantic sub-plot concerning Fred Phipps, who finds himself falling in love with the hotels chambermaid Beth.
As previously mentioned, the film takes its name from the act of wood decay caused by fungi. While this may seem like an unusual title at first glance, the stage play and the film feature a running gag where the characters are caught unaware by the hotels wooden staircase – which, as you’ve likely guessed, is suffering from a severe case of dry rot.
Dry Rot received a somewhat mixed reception from critics. The plot of the film is often criticised for being slow-moving, though the performances are often cited as being one of the film’s positives. Radio Times gave a lukewarm review saying: “This tale of crooked bookies plods along more slowly than a doped horse, but there is the compensation of the polished performances of expert farceurs Ronald Shiner, Brian Rix and Sid James”
Sky Movies gave a more positive review, focusing on the actors’ performances saying: “Joan Sims giggles infectiously and the charms of Shirley Ann Field can be very briefly glimpsed as a waitress at the Three Frogs Cafe. But Peggy Mount sweeps all else before her in a relatively short, but devastating appearance as the indomitable Sergeant Fire”
So is Dry Rot worth a watch or not? By all accounts it’s a fun movie with that will please fans of old fashioned comedies. And while the plot isn’t anything amazing, the actors appear to do a great job with the material they’re working with. So if you’re a fan of old fashioned comedies and can overlook the sometimes slow-moving plot, you’ll probably enjoy giving Dry Rot a watch.