Lucky Jim (1957)

Directed by John Boulting

Jim Dixon feels anything but lucky. At the university he has to do the bidding of absent-minded and boring Professor Welch to have any hope of keeping his job. Worse, he has managed to get entangled with unexciting but neurotic Margaret Peel, a friend of the Professor's. All-in-all, the pub is the only friendly place to be. His misery is completed at a dreadful weekend gathering of the Welch clan by the arrival of son Bertrand. Not so much that Betrand is loud-mouthed and boorish - which he is - but that he has as companion Christine Callaghan, the sort of marvellous and unattainable woman Jim can only dream about.

The paradox of this weak adaptation is that the book is actually a lot more farcical than the film might imply. But Kingsley Amis has such a good narrative lens so he can focus the reader's attention away or towards the totality of the antics that are going on at any one time in the book, so it never gets too much as it does here.

To be sure, the book will not be to everyone's liking, and a good proportion of it has aged like milk. Yet it is far more dignified than this slapstick and slapdash adaptation. On a formal level, the subplot of Dixon's "steady" girlfriend is very poorly handled to the point of incomprehensibility, and his myriad sexual insecurities did not survive in the screenplay. At least the Carry On franchise had a sense of repressed sexuality to fuel its madness along; the only thing they stopped themselves from doing in Lucky Jim is throwing custard pies at each other.