'Otley' is about fifteen minutes too long, but it's a fun film about the rather shabby world of espionage that features a stellar cast of British character actors, led by the great Tom Courtenay as Gerald Arthur Otley, a shiftless moocher and compulsive pincher of ornaments who, by sheer idiocy, finds himself at the centre of a web of slightly incomprehensible intrigue.
A nice mix of comedy and drama, 'Otley' is very sixties (never a problem in my book - or on my blog, anyway), but gives us a glimpse of the 'real' London behind the swing: the markets and bedsits, cafes, pubs and tube stations, people in polo necks and socks that need darning. The grooviest person in it is Freddie Jones, who is so sharply dressed it makes Beau Brummel look like Worzel Gummidge.
Tom Courtenay is excellent, as always. His light Yorkshire accent, bony face and slightly camp delivery are miles away from the usual leading man, and he's not afraid to appear cowardly and pathetic, which is probably why he never made it big in action films. He's also very funny and, at times, the self-obsessed, duplicitous Otley is reminiscent of a (slightly) more grown up Billy Liar, which makes you wonder sometimes if all the running around and gun play is simply part of some elaborate, extended fantasy.
The rest of the cast is a veritable who’s who of contemporary character actors, including James Villiers, Alan Badel, Leonard Rossiter, James Cossins, Ronald Lacey, Frank Middlemass, Geoffrey Bayldon and, of course, our beloved Freddie Jones. The last two on the list are still with us (aged 91 and 87, respectively) and, I hope, will remain so for a good few years to come. Romy Schneider makes an attractive female lead, but then she always did, particularly when sporting thigh length white pvc go go boots as she does here.
Light hearted and full of twists, it’s the sort of film that should be on TV right now but, for whatever reason, never is. Bloody nowadays TV.