It's been a long time since I've taken on the BFI's fantastic Flipside series, which sadly seems to have come to an end. This time around we've got yet another Swinging Sixties sex comedy from jolly ol' England, though, if I'm to be honest, it's far from my favorite of the series. Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush
is probably as famous today for its theme song by quintessential psychedelic band Traffic as it is for its goofy adventures of a thunderstruck virgin in the age of sexual exploration. Unfortunately, the film never manages to deliver the kind of Benny Hill-esque mania it is reaching for and ultimately falls a bit flat.
Jamie McGregor (Barry Evans) is a seventeen year-old grocery delivery man in suburban England who wants nothing more than to conquer the albatross of his virginity. This is, after all, the '60s, and sex was really not all that big of a deal, well, at least not for those who were already having it. Like many other films of this kind, both before and since, Jamie makes it his goal to bed one of the women of his dreams before he becomes some kind of spinster, and chases them all down, one at a time. As one might expect in a film like this, he doesn't have much luck, however, it is really the lack of excitement in Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush
that keeps it from achieving its goal for me, and that makes me truly sad.
You see, England had a strong tradition of sex comedies throughout the '60s and '70s. Men like Michael Caine in Alfie
, women like Genevieve Waite in Joanna
, and even someone like Dudley Moore in Bedazzled
had made a big impression on the box office and the movie going public. I suppose that setting the bar that high can have a residual effect on films that attack similar subject matter but with significantly less elan. In a less competitive world, Mulberry Bush
might have been a contender, however, that is thankfully not the world we live in.
Rather than bemoan the shortcomings of this film, I'd rather take on the package as a whole. BFI Flipside was, and still is in the hearts and minds of British film enthusiasts, one of the best video imprints of the last decade. Even when their films aren't fantastic, they still manage to put together a release worth buying, and if that isn't high praise I don't know what is. The BFI has access to a massive catalog of material, most of which I'd imagine hasn't seen the light of day for some time, and the curating efforts of their programmers is second to none. Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush
may not be their crown jewel, but it is pretty damned good in the overall scheme of things, and even if you aren't hot on the film, like me, you can surely find something to enjoy in the extra material if you look.
In addition to the four Flipside releases I've reviewed, I own most of the collection for my own personal enjoyment, and I have yet to be disappointed with a release. Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush
is another winner. The image is very film-like, rich with grain, and vividly colored, although not exactly pristine. I'd rather have a warm filmic glow than a pristine print of a classic film any day of the week, and this release fits the bill nicely. The audio is unassuming, but effective, as usual the most impressive bits come from the film's soundtrack, which features a couple of tunes from Traffic, including the theme song, and several Spencer Davis Group songs. All feel very warm and full and complement the film nicely.
With Flipside, even if you're not a fan of the feature, you can always count on the extra material to give you something to think about, and Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush
is no exception. The most impressive to me was the absolutely fantastic 33-page booklet that comes with the film, which both contextualizes the film and adores it at the same time. While I may not share the writers' opinions on the film, I can certainly appreciate their vigor. There are also two short films included in the set. The first, Because That Road is Trodden
, takes an alternative look at a young boy in a similar situation, and is thematically opposed to Mulberry Bush
, but an interesting contrast. The second is a documentary about the creation of the city in which the film takes place, called Stevenage
, and does help to contextualize the film's characters and their hopes and dreams in this conformist wonderland.
I have at least one more Flipside review up my sleeve, as soon as I get around to the avant-garde classic Herostratus
, but it does sadden me that there will likely be no new Flipside releases. I would grab these while you can, they are all brilliant releases of above-average films, and perhaps we can wake Flipside from their slumber if we throw a few dollars in their pockets for some old releases.