The predatory female was a late 1960s trope but this takes it stage further by suggesting that a woman can have it all, husband, lover and career fulfilment. Usually, it’s the powerful male that sets his mistress up in an apartment. It being British, Mrs Blossom (Shirley MacLaine), wife of bra manufacturer Robert (Richard Attenborough), stashes lover Ambrose (James Booth) in the attic.
There’s an element of Carry On in the focus on Robert’s profession, sniggering at the audacity of it all when it’s little more than an excuse to show a succession of half-naked girls modelling the product. The central conceit is ahead of its time, not so much one-size-fits-all, the Holy Grail of all manufacturers, but that women can have the bosom-shape they desire (rather than these days opting for the under-wired bra or going the whole hog with cosmetic surgery) through inflating the brassiere to suit.
Except toward the end, the bra business takes second place to the sex business as Mrs Blossom demonstrates exactly how to have your cake and eat it. Her shenanigans with Ambrose cause her to make greater effort with Robert. Although the male perspective occasionally intrudes: Mrs Blossom “ecstatic” at the prospect of making two men happy.
There’s not much going on plot-wise beyond Robert hearing strange noises in the attic and discovering a number of items, purloined by Ambrose, going missing, resulting in him seeking the help of a psychiatrist (Bob Monkhouse).
The whole enterprise is doused in modernity, probably post-ironic for all I know, Mrs Blossom’s painting tending towards Pop Art, some in-jokes (one dot on a canvas turns out to be a “sold” sticker). Since there’s not much else going on, Robert, kept sexually satisfied, hardly imagining his wife is engaged upon an affair, scarcely raising a scintilla of suspicion, the lovers carry on as if they are, in the best Hieronymus Merkin fashion, embarking on a welter of fantasies, primarily of the cinematic variety, so nods to Hitchcock, David Lean and even Raymond Chandler etc.
The climax at some kind of ticker-tape convention featuring Robert speaking atop a giant bra-clothed statue looks as though it consumed most of the budget. At bit more of the money could have been spent on jokes, because, without the danger of the illicit couple being found out, it lacks any real tension, unless you count a pair of bumbling and/or camp detectives (Freddie Jones and Willie Rushton) whose sole purpose appears to be to over-act. There’s a clever twist at the end.
Director Joseph McGrath (The Magic Christian, 1968) is something of an acquired taste. His main claim to fame at this point having helmed music videos for The Beatles and his scattergun approach rarely hits the target. One of the few examples where opening up a play (by Alec Coppel – of Vertigo fame!!) results in in racing in too many directions.
Shirley MacLaine (Sweet Charity, 1969), by now the decade’s most celebrated kookie, brings immense charm to the role and it has to be said it’s the acting in the main that keeps this on an even keel when the director is so clearly on a different planet. Richard Attenborough (The Flight of the Phoenix, 1965) is believable as a workaholic who lets off steam conducting an imaginary orchestra. James Booth (Fraulein Doktor, 1969), meanwhile, in a role that could have gone seven ways to Sunday, makes a convincing lothario.
Comedian Bob Monkhouse is surprising good as the madcap psychiatrist and you might have some fun spotting John Cleese, Barry Humphries and a young Patricia Routledge. Producer Joseph Shaftel (The Biggest Bundle of Them All, 1968) wrote the script with Denis Norden (The Best House in London, 1969).
Kind of has to be seen to be believed.