Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • PG
  • Comedy, Crime
  • 1979
  • 90 mins

Porridge

Film4 Porridge

Synopsis

When Slade Prison plays host to a celebrity football match, those on the inside smell a chance to escape. Big screen version of the hit sitcom starring Ronnie Barker, Richard Beckinsale, Fulton Mackay and Brian Wilde

Critic's Review

While virtually every British sitcom of the 1970s was blown up for the cinema screen, only a couple made the transition successfully. The two Steptoe And Son pictures have their defenders, as does Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais' The Likely Lads. However, it's another Clement/La Frenais entity that best made the trip from its 8.30 TV slot to the local Odeon. Arguably the greatest situation comedy of them all, 'Porridge' was so small-scale it appeared about as easy to blow-up as a leaky air-bed. Hats off then to the writers for knowing how to inflate their meisterwork, and congratulations to the cast for keeping their characters small without diminishing the size of the laughs.

With day-to-day life as grim as ever at Her Majesty's Slade Prison, everyone from the governor to the oldest of lags is delighted when ageing recidivist Norman Stanley Fletcher (Barker) suggests bringing a team of celebrities up to play football against the prison first XI. Fletch, though, is but the front for a scam cooked up by prison bigwig Harry Grout (Vaughan) for whom the match is a means to freeing the Ronnie Biggs-esque Phil Oakes (Rutter). But with matters failing to run smoothly, it's Fletch and cellmate Lenny Godber (Beckinsale) who find themselves on the outside. And since both are near the end of their sentences, they don't want out - they want back in!

This nice inversion of the standard prison break scenario is just one of the redux Porridge's many delights. Of course, the real pleasure is to spend another 90 minutes in the company of Fletch, Godber and Co. fully two years after the series ended. While time had passed, the iron hadn't gone cold on Clement and La Frenais's greatest creation (quite a statement given that they also cooked up both incarnations of 'The Likely Lads', 'Auf Wiedersehen, Pet' and The Commitments). Indeed, there are lines here so witty, wise and resigned they wouldn't look out of place in a Pinter play. "A weatherman, eight small parts and a Widow Twanky," is Fletch's swift summary of Slade's star-barren opponents. And what is said meteorologist's match prediction? "He says it's going to rain," our hefty anti-hero replies.

With so many of the Porridge cast no longer with us, there's an undeniable poignancy to the piece. Naturally, the never-bettered combination of Barker and Beckinsale are the stars of the show, but everyone gets their moment to shine - Ken Jones is superbly slippery as "horrible" Ives, Brian Wilde marvellously melancholy as Mr Barrowclough. Most interestingly of all, the newcomers to the mix - Geoffrey Bayldon and Philip Locke as the Governor and defrocked dentist Banyard respectively - are such good stand-ins, it's hard to imagine anyone else inhabiting their roles. But then, with material as good as this, Porridge would be appetising regardless of whom had been sent to Slade.

In a nutshell: The best ever sitcom-to-big-screen adaptation, Porridge provides great characters with more room to breath while serving as a wonderful if tragically premature send-off for the wonderful Richard Beckinsale.

By Richard Luck

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Fulton Mackay, Geoffrey Bayldon, Julian Holloway, Richard Beckinsale, Ronnie Barker, Brian Wilde, Ken Jones, Peter Vaughan, Tony Osoba, Sam Kelly
  • Director: Dick Clement
  • Screen Writer: Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais
  • Producer: Ian La Frenais
  • Photographer: Robert Huke
  • Composer: Joe Brown

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    Baggage Claim

    Paula Patton stars in writer-director David E Talbert's romcom about a woman's desperate hunt to find herself a husband.

  • Film4

    Metallica: Through The Never

    Director Nimród Antal and cinematographer Gyula Pados blend fact and fiction as they capture an obscure live Metallica concert in North America.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Cannes 2016: 10 Picks

    Film4.com site editor and festival newbie Michael Leader selects ten films from the Official Selection at this year's Cannes Film Festival that he can't wait to see... Go easy on me, I'm new around t

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Cannes 2016: 10 picks

    Catherine Bray runs her eye over this year¿s line-up and selects ten films she can¿t wait to watch at the 69th Cannes Film Festival The official line-up is now locked and loaded, so time to have a ru

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share