In 1974, Confessions of a Window Cleaner launched a short series of films based on books of the same name by author Timothy Lea. The films followed Lea (Robin Askwith) on a series of adventures working for his brother-in-law, Sidney (Anthony Booth), with each new profession being the gateway to a number of comic sexual escapades with a bevy of beautiful women. For some reason, Sony's disc-on-demand department have decided to issue the first and third of these films, but not the second and fourth. Hopefully it wasn't a matter of quality over popularity, because Confessions of a Driving Instructor is a noticeable step down from the first film in the series.
Following the events of Confessions of a Pop Performer, Sidney has just scored a deal on a driving school, so he has Lea go out and get his driving instructor's permit. When they arrive at the school, however, they discover not only is it not the building that Sidney was shown, but it's also next door to a bigger, better driving school run by Mr. Truscott (Windsor Davies). Truscott wants nothing more than to see the Leas' driving school go under, but he and his weaselly assistant Tony (George Layton) can't quite figure out a scheme to get them to go belly up. Meanwhile, Lea develops a crush on Truscott's daughter Mary (Lynda Bellingham), and the two of them attempt to hook up without Truscott (and Tony, who also has a crush on Mary) finding out.
The first film in the series was a collection of vignettes, but even that offered more structure and story than this third film can muster. The supposed rivalry between Truscott and the Leas kind of fizzles out halfway through, and Lea and Tony's battle for Mary's affections doesn't amount to much either. A number of totally irrelevant subplots eat up screen time so the film can achieve a reasonable 90-minute runtime, such as an anniversary dinner for the elder Leas (Doris Hare and Bill Maynard) at a fancy Italian restaurant. The film ends with a football match so boring that even the film gives up on it eventually and launches a random car chase instead. The implication from the box copy is that it would be a battle between the Leas and the Truscotts, which would kind of make sense, but it's actually a fairly creepy chase to save Mary from Tony, who has taken a libido pill and...well, seems to be whisking Mary off to rape her.
Of course, nobody watches these kind of movies for the story, but the comedy and sexuality are no good either. Askwith reveals himself to be an adept physical comedian, but most of the scenes are pretty cartoonish, and the sight of his "agonizing pain" face becomes more than repetitive (the best bit involves Mary grabbing his hand while watching a televised race and wrenching him around the couch while wrapped up in the outcome). As per the film's raison d'etre, there are a number of sex scenes in the film, including Lea being romanced by both the office secretary Avril (Maxine Casson), but also her lonely mother (Liz Fraser), but the film is surprisingly light on nudity or invention. Perhaps the series reputation was hurting it, meaning fewer actresses willing to appear in each film, much less get naked for one.
Directorially, Norman Cohen pushes the series farther into cartoon logic with an opening sequence where Lea's passionate lovemaking with his driving instructor auditor causes the car to fall to pieces. In another scene, Mary's parents take the same libido pills and cause the chandelier to fall off the ceiling. The chase sequence that ends the movie is competent, but it feels like a missed comic opportunity to do more damage. All things considered, the seams show on this Confessions, which hardly seems to have a reason to exist outside of setting up the next (and unexpectedly final) entry in the series.
Although Confessions of a Driving Instructor follows the same template as every Sony Choice release, with the generic blue backdrop, the white banner, and the single photo (as well as the lack of a running time -- really quite annoying), this one is worse than the other Confessions film I reviewed because the original poster artwork tips over the line between funny caricature and grotesque caricature. These sorts of cartoons were commonplace in the 1970s, but they were generally better than this, which looks more like awful random fan artwork you see when Googling random movie stars. The disc comes in an eco-friendly Amaray and there is an insert advertising other Sony Choice titles.
The Video and Audio
Sadly, the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is yet another area in which Driving Instructor comes up short in comparison to Window Cleaner. The transfer for this one looks good, sure, and certainly more than adequate for a cheap sex comedy from the 1970s, but it's not quite as vivid or striking as the one for Window Cleaner. It's nothing specific, just an overall feeling: colors are a touch more drab, detail is a touch less sharp...the overall appearance only inspires a passive shrug. Some of this might just be that Driving Instructor is a less colorful film, but it still affects the experience. As with the previous film, Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is serviceable, mostly serving to separate the sound effects and music from the dialogue, which it accomplishes admirably. No subtitles or captions are provided on the disc.
None, not even a menu.
While the first Confessions film merited a rental, this third film is more of a bust (no pun intended). The slapstick is more exaggerated, but the charm is lessened, and there's actually less nudity, which really seems like the whole reason for any of these movies existing. Skip it.
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