No flat caps and no ‘Mr Grimsdale ‘here. But you do get both the swinging sixties and the Pretty Things in What’s Good For The Goose.
It was Wisdom’s last starring role and, for Wisdom fans, by far his worst. But for some of us, this is by far his most interesting big-screen outing. Essentially because it is so bizarre and so of its era.
Wisdom is a middle-aged London banker called Timothy Bartlett, assistant manager at his branch, married with two children and living the middle-class, middle-management life that all too many people can associate with, even today. Every day like the last. Then, one day, everything changes.
The manager is struck down at work, with Bartlett forced to take his place at the banker’s conference in Southport. He packs his bag (and his sandwiches) for the long drive, but just short of the town, he accidentally picks up two swinging teens, Nikki (Sally Geeson) and Meg (Sarah Atkinson), who manage to ruffle his feathers and get him pulled over for speeding. The first layer of his respectability has been chipped away. It won’t be the last.
The conference starts, but all the usually diligent banker can think about are the two girls in the car. The dour conference and post-conference dinner don’t help, nor does being the ‘outsider’ at the event. There’s only one thing for it – go where the action is!
Which just happens to be a nearby club (The Screaming Apple) where the remnants of the mods and upcoming hippies hang out. Inside, it’s a technicolour dream, with the sounds provided at ear-shattering volume by Electric Banana (played by The Pretty Things). One of the great ‘swinging’ club scenes ever committed to film. The other is later in the same movie.
Anyway, our Timothy meets up with the two girls and their hipster crowd, becomes a surprise hit on the dancefloor and manages to catch the eye of Nikki too. After some knockabout antics, he gets her back to his room for a night of passion.
That’s not the end of it either. With his head turned Timothy skips the conference and has some fun on the town instead – the funfair, the bandstand, the sand dunes, and even some swimming in the nude during a day/night session. The day after, he goes out to buy some hipster gear, as well as a new-built flat for his new-found girlfriend, before hitting the Screaming Apple once more, throwing some will shapes too, as it happens.
The turnaround is complete.
Or is it? Deep down, you know it’s only a weekend of fun…and like all weekends, soon enough, it’s back to the Monday to Friday grind. As Timothy finds out all too quickly. Still, at least there’s a happy ending of sorts.
So there should be. Because essentially, What’s Good For The Goose is a fun film. Yes, it might have an undercurrent of a midlife crisis, it might also be a poke at the ‘establishment’, but like Timothy’s banking weekend, it’s just a piece of escapism – about how you can learn to enjoy life once more if you get over yourself or forget that you grew up. I think we can all learn from that.
It might not work for the die-hard Wisdom fans, but lovers of swinging sixties cinema really should grab a copy of this. Or catch it when it appears on the old movie channels.
It’s also interesting that it features mods as well as the psych crowd in 1969. Conventional wisdom (no pun intended) has it that the mod scene peaked around the beach riots of 1964. Maybe it did, in a way.
But the original 1960s scene did live on longer in the north of England (aided ably by the Twisted Wheel, for example), eventually mutating into what became the northern soul scene. So something of a time capsule of that, too.
On the downside, What’s Good For The Goose has never really been taken seriously by the movie reissue companies. Very little restoration has gone into any home DVD or Blu-ray (if you can find one) release, extras are non-existent, and the version you often see is a ‘cut’ version, although you’re not missing much from the full version, if I’m honest.
On the plus side, DVD versions tend to be (fairly) cheap these days, and as I said, there is the occasional screening on Talking Pictures. Great fun, even if some of it is unintentional. And probably the only record of Southport swinging in the 1960s.