Saturday, August 8, 2015
Lester’s greatest professional setback, The Bed Sitting Room now stands as perhaps his most audacious experiment. Adapted from a play by Spike Milligan and John Antrobus imagining a dystopian England three years after nuclear war, Lester’s film situates absurd Monty Python–esque sketches amid a desolate landscape of ruins and ash. Seventeen-months-pregnant Penelope (The Knack…’s Rita Tushingham) and her family leave the subway train that has sheltered them since World War III to seek help above ground. There they find deranged survivors attempting to go on with their lives who are prone to spontaneously mutating into animals or furniture—including bed-sitting rooms. Featuring some of Britain’s top comics, including Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, and Milligan himself, the film’s surreal humor did not connect with audiences in its day, but offers a vision of social collapse so acrid that the laughs catch in your throat.