Films such as Only Two Can Play are social documents.
No-one probably thought much about it at the time, but this domestic comedy set in suburban Wales portrays a way of life which has long disappeared... we hope.
Peter Sellers' character John Lewis is a staff librarian at a largeish municipal library. A librarian with a roving eye, who wakes up every morning feeling he could get up to something... anything... and spends the rest of the day fantasising about it.
He lives in a boarding house where he, his wife Jean (Virginia Maskell) and their two children share three rooms and half a bathroom. It's a pretty desperate life, overcrowded and grotty. But all will be well if only he could get promotion to deputy librarian, which would bring in another two pounds a week.
And along comes Liz (Mai Zetterling), the Norwegian-born wife of a local councillor who also happens to be chairman of the library committee. And she, like John Lewis, also happens to have a roving eye. Can these two rovers get their desires to coincide? Can she help John Lewis get the promotion he (or, rather, his wife Jean) so desperately needs? Would Jean be willing to let John pay the asking price for the promotion?
It's a well-plotted, well-acted domestic comedy, adapted by actor Bryan Forbes from the Kingsley Amis novel That Uncertain Feeling. It's the best adaptation from an Amis novel after the classic Lucky Jim.
Peter Sellers' Welsh accent may be a bit dodgy here and there, but his acting and timing is immaculate. His Welsh Lothario is a sight to behold. This film was made just one year before Kubrick's Lolita and this period gave us Sellers at his absolute peak.
Mai Zetterling is excellent as the middle-aged, bored and promiscuous councillor's wife. And Virginia Maskell as Jean Lewis is even better - her naturalistic acting, just suggesting that the social conditions are starting to fray her edges, is one of the prime qualities of the film.
With Richard Attenborough as guest star, as a playwright who wants to be the big fish in a little pond, and with a brief but typically delightful appearance by John le Mesurier, this is a classic British comedy. And while US comedies of the same vintage tried to pretend that everyone lived in the Great American Dream Home, this is set firmly in the real world of the time.
This is true kitchen-sink comedy, showing exactly how most people in Britain were forced to live in those days. I haven't been over there for a long stretch for quite a while now; I hope it's changed...
The black and white print used for this transfer is in excellent condition, showing very little wear.
Contrasts and tones are fine, almost glossy, with virtually no sight of any film grain.