Although the series was popular enough to spawn four entries, Timothy Lea's Confessions... films seem to have just about disappeared into the fog of pop culture history. These good-natured sex comedies were adapted from Lea's books of the same names, and each entry stars Robin Askwith as Lea, who takes on whatever new odd job his brother-in-law Sidney (Anthony Booth) has concocted. This eventually leads to him ending up in bed, in trouble, or both with any number of the organization's beautiful clients. The films were British, but were mostly funded by Columbia Pictures in United States, and were very successful by way of their minimal budgets.
It's hard to critique what was little more than a simple formula, followed four times, kind of like a lengthy R-rated television show for movie theaters. Confessions of a Window Cleaner is not a film that anyone is likely to blindly seek out in the 21st century; its audience will be those who have some memory of seeing the films on late-night television or as boxes in a video store. The films were derided by UK critics as filth when they were in theaters, but viewed today, these sex romps are playfully quaint, and there's a surprising lack of offensively outdated gender politics on display, outside of the copious nudity, and sitcom-level nagging that goes on between Sidney and his put-upon wife Rosie (Sheila White), who knows that Sidney would be the one with the confessions if she didn't keep an eye on him at all times.
Instead of cleaning windows, Lea generally pokes his head through them, such as the window at an all-girls school, or the window of some woman who appears to be sunbathing indoors. Rosie is pregnant, so Sidney tells Timothy he's gotta pick up more of the business's responsibilities, which of course include sleeping with a number of beautiful women. What follows is basically a series of unrelated vignettes about one of Lea's clients, which offer a) a number of window cleaning / sex puns about buckets being filled and ladders going up, b) nudity, and c) conclude in some kind of gag sequence. At one house, Lea knocks over a jug of soap and accidentally leaves the tap on, then he and a gorgeous blonde (Sue Longhurst) have sex in the bubbles. In another, Lea and a girl (Katya Wyeth) quote movies to one another and do impressions while moving toward the bed (one of the film's more charming bits).
Despite his healthy client list, Lea's heart belongs to Elizabeth Radlett (Linda Hayden), who he runs into on the street after falling off his ladder. Later, he discovers that not only is she a police officer, but her father (John Le Mesurier) is one of the chief inspectors. The closest thing the film has to a central conflict is Elizabeth's reluctance to sleep with Lea, which he solves by asking her to marry him. Although Lea's fear of Elizabeth's father seems to be the perfect set-up for a stand-off finale, an entirely different set of complications arise when Lea goes to get married, which feels a bit arbitrary. Hayden is charming, and the viewer can understand what Lea sees in her, although most of his lovers are charming, too.
Director Val Guest aims for slapstick, sight gags, and silliness at all costs. These gags are hit-and-miss, generally missing when the gag doesn't make much sense. In one scene, Lea is supposed to hide, and his lover (Olivia Munday) shoos him away from crawling under the bed or climbing in the closet, telling him to hide under a tiger-skin rug instead, and Guest makes no effort to hide the fact that a very three-dimensional man is laying under a rug that ought to be more two-dimensional. Lea often cuts a path of destruction with his ladder and absent-mindedness, but the cartoon nature of Confessions means his damage can basically disappear between shots. That's the film in a nutshell: cute, occasionally dumb, and doesn't leave a mark.
Much like the early Warner Archive releases, Sony Choice titles use a blue template with a white "Choice Collection" banner at the top, and the original theatrical poster right in the middle. The back cover features a short synopsis, accompanied by a single picture from the film. The one irritating thing about all three Sony Choice releases I received is that neither mentions the running time of the film, which seems like one of the only pieces of information someone will definitely be looking for on the artwork. Inside the case is a leaflet advertising other Sony Choice releases, and the disc art is plain white with the film's logo.
The Video and Audio
Color me surprised: the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image on this disc is actually fantastic. It appears that Sony has done a brand-new scan for this release, as there is almost no print damage visible (just an occasional fleck or two), grain is nice and healthy, and colors are absolutely vivid. Honestly, there were times watching this disc that I felt I might be looking at a Blu-Ray, particularly some of the close-ups. Sure, there's no mistaking this is a film from the 1970s, what with the heavy grain during the optical titles, but this DVD is an excellent presentation. Sound is a more standard Dolby Digital 2.0 that sounds pretty crisp for a film of its time, without any muffling or echo. Music can sound a little muddy, but only a tiny bit. The one disappointment technically is the lack of subtitles or captions.
None, not even a menu.
As a Sony Choice Collection title, Confessions of a Window Cleaner can easily reach its audience: people who have already seen it somewhere, and would like to revisit it. To that end, this new DVD-R is actually fantastic, featuring a crisp and colorful new transfer that rejuvenates the movie. For those viewers, the disc is recommended, but the movie isn't quite weighty enough to earn more than a rental for everyone else.
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