20 June 2017




'Adapted by Andrea Dunbar from her own play, based on her upbringing on Bradford's Buttershaw estate, RITA, SUE AND BOB TOO contrasts bawdy laughs with astute social commentary.'
I always associate this film with CLOCKWISE, an hilarious gem of a movie starring John Cleese, otherwise known as Basil Fawlty, the owner of the best damn guest-house in Torquay. I must have seen both films for the first time around the same time, if you know what I mean.

I generally re-watch these two superb British comedies every Christmas, so I tend to think of 'em as Crimbo films even though there isn't so much as a single mention of the 'C' word in either one of them. When I first watched RITA, SUE AND BOB TOO! way back in the 'Nineties, I laughed so much that I was nearly sick as a consequence.

Ditto, CLOCKWISE, my copy of which came from a newspaper as a free gift in one of those little square cardboard envelopes. I love those little cardboard envelope films. I don't know if newspapers really do them anymore though, which if it were correct would be really sad. End of an era and all that.

I acquired nearly an entire collection of CARRY ON movies and the John Carpenter HALLOWEEN films that way, not to mention little gems like THE PIANO, THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS, KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS and SOPHIE'S CHOICE. Sadly, THE NEWS OF THE WORLD newspaper, which gave out CLOCKWISE as a much-welcomed free gift, is now defunct so there'll be no more cinematic freebies from that quarter ever again. Sniffle...

Anyway, RITA, SUE AND BOB TOO is the story of two teenage girls living in squalor and near-poverty on a run-down council estate in Bradford in the 'Eighties. What's usually described as 'Margaret Thatcher's Britain' seems to be a glum, joyless and even bleak place to live. Unemployment is rife in the North of England, along with all the problems that seem to accompany it. Depression, alcoholism, anger, hopelessness and a feeling of desperation, to name but a few.

To escape the crippling mundanity of their everyday lives, brunette Rita and blonde Sue have a three-way sexual relationship with a more affluent married man whose wife hires them to babysit. The affair is instigated entirely by the husband, Bob, who unfortunately has form in this area.

Bob is like an immature and overgrown schoolboy who just can't resist pushing his luck with the ladies. He doesn't have to push too hard with either Sue or Rita. They have hardly any money apart from what they can earn doing a bit of babysitting and Bob is 'rich' by comparison.

The girls don't see the point of school, they're bored out of their brains with life on the estate and Bob's singling them out for his special attentions makes them feel glamorous, daring, adventurous and, for a while at least, different from the other girls at school.

Sue, in particular, has an absolutely dreadful home life. Her home is a tip and her father is a scruffy, foul-mouthed and abusive alcoholic who calls Sue names like 'slag' and 'slut' when she comes home late from her babysitting jobs.

It's all fun and games for a while, anyway, with Rita, Sue and Bob (too!), until the wife finds out from a friend what her hubby's been getting up to and the proverbial whatsit hits the fan in a spectacularly big way. Funny the way your sins always tend to find you out, isn't it?

Lesley Sharp as Michelle, the wronged wife, is terrific in the way she portrays the character. On the surface, she seems like a right bitch. She lords it over the two shabby teenagers, she's clearly obsessed with 'keeping up with the Joneses,' judging by the way she keeps her immaculate posh house so fancy and, worst of all, she denies Bob his conjugal rights.

On the other hand, she genuinely doesn't seem to like sex. Maybe she's afraid of it, or maybe she's so mistrustful of Bob that she just can't give herself to him in that way. It's obvious that Bob's been unfaithful before and it's hard to live with someone you can't trust. 

Any wives or girlfriends out there who've ever been cheated on, myself included, will know how she feels and will sympathise with her. It ain't no fun wearing the cuckold's horns. They're too damned heavy, especially in the summer-time, and they pinch round the ears a bit.

Ten years after acting in RITA, SUE AND BOB TOO, by the way, Lesley Sharp went on to co-star in one of the biggest box-office draws of that year, THE FULL MONTY, another terrific British comedy from an era when they still made 'em like that.

Ms. Sharp also appeared as a Whitechapel prossie in FROM HELL (2001) with none other than the rather delicious Johnny Depp, and as the mother of a pregnant girl whose abortion goes wrong in the absolutely excellent VERA DRAKE (2004), which starred Imelda Staunton of HARRY POTTER fame in the title role.

By the way, just while I think of it, Michelle Holmes (Sue) played brassy blonde barmaid Tina Fowler in Britain's longest-running soap opera, CORONATION STREET, and Aslam, Sue's boyfriend, is played by Kulvinder Ghir. He went on to star in the extremely funny and successful comedy sketch show GOODNESS GRACIOUS ME, from which their sketch 'Going for an English' (instead of Going For An Indian!) is just one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

The sex in RITA, SUE AND BOB TOO is flippin' hilarious, even though we should probably all be morally outraged at the notion of a much older married man taking the virginity of two schoolgirls temporarily in his care. It mostly takes place in Bob's car, up on the nearby moors.

Legs with knickers hanging off of them are stuck out the car window to make more room as Bob, with his white naked backside bobbing up and down like the clappers, introduces first Rita and then Sue to what they elegantly refer to as a 'jump.' I love the way that Bob first introduces the subject of sex with the two girls.

'D'you know what an' 'ard-on is...?'

How romantic. How classy. How rip-roaringly f***ing hilarious.

Their sex is messy, awkward, crude and about as romantic as a dose of the clap on your honeymoon. But the girls love it and seize every opportunity to ride the sleazy, cheeky but undoubtedly likeable Bob ragged in the back of his old jalopy. Good for Bob, haha. I know I should hate him for being a sleazy cheat but I just can't. He's much, much too likeable a person.

God love 'em, though, those poor girls. They actually think they're living the high life, being driven up to the moors by Bob to have sex. I nearly choked on my tea when one of them remarks that 'Bob really knows how to show a girl a good time...!' F***ing hell. He shags them in his car and gives 'em a couple of quid for fags. 'Nuff said.

The tagline for the film reads: THATCHER'S BRITAIN WITH HER KNICKERS DOWN... That just about sums it up. Yes, it's hilariously funny but there's a lot of grinding poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunities on display here as well.

There isn't much for girls like Rita and Sue to do when they leave school other than getting knocked up, with or without the benefit of matrimony, and living out the rest of their lives in council accommodation one step above slum-level, just like their parents have done and their parents before them.

Sue's brief stint as Aslam the cabbie's live-in lover is a pretty accurate example of what either of them can expect when they decide to take the plunge, probably too early like everyone else they know. Still, I usually prefer to just focus on the funny, dirty sexy shenanigans when I watch the film, rather than the bleak outlook for the girls' futures. Call me shallow if you will, but that's just the way I roll, heh-heh-heh.

Highlights include Sue chasing Bob and Rita across the moors with a shoe caked in cow-shit, Bob's wife Michelle storming round to the council estate to have it out with her husband-shagging babysitters and Rita, Sue and Bob Too (see what I did there???) dancing their hearts out to the real-life Black Lace singing the wonderful Gang-Bang song. Remember Black Lace's huge international smash hit song, Agadoo...? What's that? You were trying to forget it? Oh, of course. Right. Sorry...!

Anyway, this wonderful film is out now on special Blu-Ray release from the good old BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE, on whom you can always rely to pick a right good 'un for your enjoyment and entertainment.

You'll be happy to know that the film comes complete with a load of smashing extra features, including a brilliant, newly-filmed 69-minute documentary called: 'HAVING A BALL: THE MAKING OF RITA, SUE AND BOB TOO and a 36-page illustrated booklet with full film credits and writing by David Rollinson, Andrea Dunbar (who wrote the screenplay for the film) and Max Stafford-Clark.

By the way, just out of curiosity, did you enjoy this review? Because, um, you know:

'I thought I were great...!'


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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