Otley – 1968 | 91 mins | Comedy | Colour
Entertaining if uneven comedy-thriller adapted from the Martin Waddell comic novels by TV writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. Director Clement keeps events unfolding at a brisk pace and the meandering plot never ceases in finding embarrassing predicaments for the hapless Otley. Tom Courtenay creates a sympathetic character out of the cowardly, sardonic, petty thief who finds himself in the dangerous world of espionage. There’s marvellous support from both Leonard Rossiter and Freddie Jones.
Gerald Arthur Otley (Tom Courtenay), a not-altogether honest antique dealer in the Portobello Road market, is evicted by his landlady and offered a bed for the night by close friend Eric Lambert (Edward Hardwicke). Unbeknown to Otley, Lambert is a smuggler, and when he’s assassinated during the night, Otley finds himself waking up from a drunken stupor on Gatwick airport runway and pursued by various intelligence agencies who have mistaken him for a master spy.
The first to accost him are British intelligence in the shape of Hendrickson (James Villiers) and Imogen (Romy Schneider), who interrogate him about an organisation called ICS. They believe him to be innocent, but once freed he is immediately captured by ICS, a world news organisation led by the colourful Philip Proudfoot (Freddie Jones). Proudfoot needs to ensure Otley knows nothing, so sends him to the farm of oddball coach-driving assassin Johnson (Leonard Rossiter), who is to hold the antique-dealing petty thief while they decide what to do next.
ICS require Otley to do one task, an exchange with Hendrickson at Notting Hill Gate underground station, but events take an unexpected twist and the captive is free to take his scheduled driving test. But once again the increasingly frustrated antique-dealer finds himself pursued by agents during an ensuing car chase round London. Otley is delivered to British intelligence’s Sir Alex Hadrian (Alan Badel), who offers him a large sum of money to become‘legit’ and go undercover.
Dick Clement: Director
Carmen Dillon: Art Direction
Austin Dempster: Cinematography
Richard Best: Film Editing
Stella Morris: Makeup Department
Michael Morris: Makeup Department
Joyce James: Makeup Department
Stanley Myers: Original Music
Bruce Cohn Curtis: Producer
Ian La Frenais: Script
Dick Clement: Script
John Cox: Sound Department
Peter Davies: Sound Department
William Trent: Sound Department
Tom Courtenay: Gerald Arthur Otley
Romy Schneider: Imogen
Alan Badel: Sir Alex Hadrian
James Villiers: Hendrickson
Leonard Rossiter: Johnson
Freddie Jones: Philip Proudfoot
Fiona Lewis: Lin
James Bolam: Albert
Edward Hardwicke: Lambert
Ronald Lacey: Curtis
Geoffrey Bayldon: Insp Hewett