“Tell me something, was there ever a woman who wasn’t a twisted bitch?’ screams BBC tv producer Lewis McKenzie in one of a number of chauvinist rants contained in this remarkable re-issue. So yes, out-dated attitudes are contained here, but that’s surely par for the course in 1967. Produced by comedy specialist Bob Kellett and director by horror-comedy maestro Robert Fuest, Just Like A Woman is a quite obscure film; even the exhaustive Halliwell’s Film Guide doesn’t have an entry for it. Revived for blu-ray in 2021, the attitudes may be old hat but the film looks splendid, with the kind of garish, sharp, with-it images featured in The Avengers.
So having established that few have heard of this film, it’s worth digging around to see why this was worth fishing out from the dustiest oubliette imaginable. Firstly, that tv producer is played by Francis Matthews, familiar from a number of Hammer horror films but also a great comic foil to Morcambe and Wise back in the day. In a startling opening scene, Lewis McKenzie is introduced breaking up with his partner Scilla (played by Wendy Craig) during a drawing-room spat. She calls her friend John (John Wood) to pick her and her suitcases up, but the separate routes taken by the couple turn out to lead back to each other, and Just Like A Woman hinges on the notion that perhaps you don’t know what’s good for you until it’s gone.
There’s a few bum notes here; Clive Dunn is quite restrained as a Teutonic interior designer, but it’s a cheap English joke about goose-stepping Germans that feels old even for 1967. But there’s also compensations in quirky acts like Sheila Steafel, Barry Fantoni, Peter Jones, Aubrey Woods and Dennis Price, names that will star recognition in students of British comedy. Craig has been a national institution for as long as the NHS via popular shows like Butterfies, and despite a horrid wig, makes a defiant fist of her character.
Yet oddly, this film really belongs to Matthews, who lets it all hang out as a stuck-up, super-posh BBC producer who gradually realises the error of his macho ways and admits his mistakes. It’s a full-on performance that’s leavened by notes of tenderness, and Just Like A Woman manages to escape the hectoring tone that the title suggests. With a lot of pristine, well-lit studio-work, Fuest’s film comes up wonderfully well on blu-ray, and the whole package is a rare chance to see a film of some genuine merit that simply doesn’t exist in the history books. And as buried capsules go, this view of a truce in the battle between the sexes is quite delightfully of its time.
Thanks to Blue Dolhpin PR and Network for advanced access on blu-ray.
Just Like A Woman is out on DVD, Digital and Blu-rauy in the UK from July 5th 2021.