A few years ago, I was involved in a conversation with my niece Suzanne, her husband Young Mr Raggett and Lady Barton St Mary, involving our favourite films of all time. The usual suspects were being mentioned. Not just The Usual Suspects, also The Godfather, Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, etc, etc.
“I think The Sweeney 2 was one of the greatest films ever made,” I blurted out in the middle of this cultural consideration. Young Mr Raggett looked at me, astounded. Lady Barton St Mary arched an eyebrow.
“You do talk utter nonsense sometimes,” she sighed, as the others laughed.
You see, The Sweeney was a 1970s cop show about The Metropolitan Police’s specialist unit known as ‘The Flying Squad’, affectionately known in cockney rhyming slang as ‘The Sweeney Todd’. Cockney rhyming slang will also make an appearance later on in my tale.
For years I’ve been reminded of this impulsive statement, opining that a movie spin off of a TV show, nay, the second movie spin off, could possibly rank shoulder to shoulder with Vertigo, Apocalypse Now or Taxi Driver. In fact, a few months ago, Suzanne sent me a photograph of the old cinema in my home town of Borehamwood, known as Studio 70.
Studio 70 was where Nanny Janet took me to see my first feature film, Mary Poppins. In those days, there were stalls and a circle, like a theatre. There was also smoking and non-smoking areas. If you wanted a puff, you sat in the stalls on the right hand side of the aisle. Special measures were made to ensure that no smoke ever drifted over to the left hand side of the cinema. No, actually, that’s just nonsense; in defence of the old days, passive smoking, like allergies, weren’t invented until the early 1980s.
As you can see, it wasn’t the most salubrious of cinemas. Some of the charming concrete tiles have taken a wander and the front entrance looks like it could do with a good clean. As you can see, the photo was taken when the main feature was Sweeney 2 – They’re Back! Tougher Than Ever! John Thaw and Dennis Waterman!
So, here’s why I think that Sweeney 2 is one of the greatest films of all time. It wasn’t the fact that John Thaw and Dennis Waterman as Regan and Carter got to curse properly and that the fights were more violent than normal. It was the people I went with and the supporting film which I think Americans call a ‘B’ Movie.
It was a proper lads’ night out: Eggy Howe, my brother in law Laurie and my dad. Now, my dad rarely made it to the cinema, but was a big fan of The Sweeney, so decided to join us.
The supporting film was called Tiffany Jones, based on the comic strip from the Daily Mail about a model who moonlights as a secret agent, starring a rather attractive lady called Anouska Hempel and a man called Ray Brooks, who went on to play a gambler called Robbie Box in a BBC series called Big Deal. But the instantly recognisable actor who surprisingly appeared was Geoffrey Hughes, better known as Eddie Yates in the long running soap opera Coronation Street. I say surprisingly, because this particular supporting feature was nothing more than a soft porn film.
Now, I already had experience in seeing such films, having seen Emmanuelle with Debbie Seabrook the year before (see blog https://ruralspaceman.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/when-it-comes-to-love-mummy-knows-best/ ). Eggie Howe had also seen Emmanuelle. Laurie, a self-appointed man of the world, had obviously seen more than his fair share of smutty films, nonchalantly telling us he’d seen a lot more than what we had, inadvertently proving he was the biggest wanker, as Eggy helpfully pointed out later.
My dad, on the other hand, had only seen films with actors like John Wayne, Gary Cooper and Spencer Tracy. Nothing had prepared him for full frontal nudity, bare breasted massage and simulated sex on the big screen.
Within five minutes, two women had completely disrobed.
Eggy and I turned to look at my dad.
My dad sat up straight in his sticky red flock cinema seat and blinked rapidly.
“They’ve taken all their kit off!” he explained unnecessarily. We chuckled. Laurie gave a worldly wise grunt. At least I hope that’s what it was.
The film continued, my dad chuckling and shaking his head in disbelief, repeating the phrase, “Bli-“ over and over again, a shortening of the vernacular ‘blimey’.
Tiffany Jones appeared next to a swimming pool with Eddie Yates/Geoffrey Hughes. He was on the telephone, observed by the camera from the other side of the pool. Suddenly, a female figure obscured Eddie by standing up in the shallow water, the shot at waist level. She was completely naked. Being the 1978, she had a full head of hair on her front bits. It was like looking at a 20ft image of Abe Lincoln’s chin. We were in the second row.
My dad dropped his fruit gums. In fact, he nearly dropped his teeth.
“Fuckinell you can see her Jack n Danny!” he shouted, eyes wide, pointing at the screen. For the uninitiated, my dad, a true cockney, had used rhyming slang to describe a lady’s fanny. By the way, American readers, ‘fanny’ in English doesn’t mean bottom it means ‘ladies front bottom’.
There was a momentary silence before Eggy and I, along with the rest of the audience, collapsed in laughter. My dad, composing himself, joined in.
He spent the rest of this skin flick shaking his head and saying ‘Cor blimey,’ and ‘I don’t believe it.’
By the time Sweeney 2 started, my ribs were hurting from all the hilarity. I vaguely remember Dennis Waterman and John Thaw punching thugs and ne’er do wells as well as chatting up ‘birds’ and shooting guns. I really enjoyed it, but maybe it was the whole experience of watching my dad watch Tiffany Jones that made it so memorable.
Studio 70 was knocked down in the 1980s, but that’s a tale for another day. More importantly, I think it’s time that I watched Sweeney 2 again, just to convince myself it is the fantastic action thriller comparable to Mean Streets or Carlito’s Way.
Tiffany Jones? I think I’ll give that a miss. Now my dad’s no longer with us, I’d miss all the tutting and giggling as much as I miss him.