CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • PG
  • Comedy, Crime
  • 1979
  • 90 mins [R][S]

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

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4 Stone

    Stone

    Robert De Niro, Ed Norton and Milla Jovovich star in this drama thriller about a convicted arsonist trying to manipulate a parole officer with the help of his beautiful wife

    On Film4: 25 Feb 10:55PM

  • Film4 Pusher

    Pusher

    Nicolas Winding Refn's Danish crime thriller is given a British makeover starring Richard Coyle and Agyness Deyn

    On Film4: 27 Feb 10:45PM

  • Film4 Serenity

    Science-Fiction Season on Film4

    The future starts here! Film4's 2015 season of science fiction features classics of the genre, old and new

  • Film4 The Last Exorcism Part 2

    The Last Exorcism Part II on Film4

    Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) returns with no memory of the terrible events she experienced in the first film, or that they were only the beginning on Film4.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Postcard from Sundance

    Dark Horse director Louise Osmond on visiting Sundance for the first time, where her film premiered to critical acclaim and won the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary. [caption id="attachme

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Film4 signs development deal with Jonathan Glazer

    Film4 has announced a development deal with Under The Skin director Jonathan Glazer, continuing its longstanding relationship with the acclaimed British filmmaker. David Kosse, Director of Film4, s

Watch On TV

5:10PM
Wed 04 Mar

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

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

or Register

Share