Color, 1967, 96 mins. 5 secs.
Directed by Desmond Davis
Starring Lynn Redgrave, Rita Tushingham, Michael York, Anna Quayle, Irene Handl, Ian Carmichael
Kino Lorber (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.66:1: (16:9), Anchor Bay (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1)

Though Smashing Timethe height of '60s Smashing Time"mod" Swinging London only lasted a fairly short period of time (roughly the second half of the '60s), it certainly spawned enough pop culture to remain a ripe target for satire and a beloved musical and fashion influence for many years to come. More or less sending up the wild colors and fashions of the era is the musical comedy Smashing Time, a nearly plotless romp through the city with stars and a director better known for their work in kitchen sink realism films in England. Bound to either delight or annoy new viewers, it's certainly one of a kind and remains an eye-filled time capsule of a bygone era.

Brenda (Tushingham) and Yvonne (Redgrave), two chipper and rather naive Northerners, are all smiles when they arrive in London with designs on becoming famous -- even if they aren't quite sure how. They get off to a rocky start when their cash gets stolen, which zips them into a life of doing menial day work and sampling the fashion treasure trove of Carnaby Street. Soon they're rubbing shoulders with a motley crew of characters including posh photographer Tom (York) and rich older lech Bobby (Carmichael, a.k.a. the most famous Lord Peter Wimsey), as blind luck lands them showbiz gigs in the singing and fashion industry. Smashing TimeHowever, their friendship might not be enough to sustain them on this crazy rollercoaster ride.

So indebted to the previous year's Czech surrealist masterpiece Daisies (right down to its food fight sequences) that it should still be passing on royalty checks, Swinging London is Smashing Timemost successful as a crazy quilt collection of decor, clothing, and music (including multiple song performances by the two leads) with a psychedelic array of colors that threaten to burn right off the screen. As a comedy it's shakier with a less than firm grasp on comedy by director Desmond Davis, who worked with both leads earlier on Girl with Green Eyes and would go on to do Clash of the Titans and the troubled Cannon production of Ordeal by Innocence. Redgrave is a really good sport though and has a truly infectious energy carried over from her earlier iconic role in Georgy Girl. Tushingham is more of an acquired taste; a solid dramatic actress who broke through in A Taste of Honey, she had adapted well to comedy with Richard Lester's The Knack... and How to Get It but really goes over the top here pulling goofy faces and flailing around during the slapstick scenes. That said, she does fare well in her quieter moments, and in the scenes where she and Redgrave aren't being manipulative or maddening, you can see a fascinating female camaraderie blossoming that would find fruition years later with the likes of Absolutely Fabulous. The frothy score by John Addison (Tom Jones) with an Smashing Timeassist from psych rock band Skip Bifferty manages to do a lot of heavy lifting here and has some very catchy moments, and the soundtrack LP is worth snapping up if you ever stumble across it.

Released theatrically by Paramount, Smashing Time made its U.S. home video debut very early in the DVD era from Anchor Bay with a no-frills release that marked its last appearance for decades. In 2018, Kino Lorber revived it with a new Smashing TimeHD scan as both Blu-ray and DVD editions, looking far more colorful and natural here than the Anchor Bay version (which was heavily overmatted at 1.85:1 compared to the 1.66:1 version seen here). It's a real sensory delight with reds in particular popping out all over the place. The DTS-HD MA English mono track is also in better shape and has some nice heft to it, with optional English SDH subtitles provided. The one relevant bonus feature is a goodie, a new audio commentary by Kat Ellinger that makes a case for this film's social commentary and "hotbed" of social issues. Whether the film itself can withstand such an in-depth scholarly study is up for debate but she does a very convincing job tying it to the impact of British identity via Woodfall kitchen sink realism, connections to films like Daisies, Girl on a Motorcycle, and Muriel's Wedding, and the state of British cinema and its familiar character actors both before and after this film (including some obligatory Hammer nods). Bonus trailers are also included for The Knack, Billion Dollar Brain, Modesty Blaise, and The Bed Sitting Room.

Kino Lorber (Blu-ray)

Anchor Bay (DVD)


Reviewed on July 31, 2018.