It has come to my attention through the medium of observation that I have reviewed a lot of American films and not enough British. So in the interests of separation, I am going
to review one of my favourite films that bleeds ‘British’.
Guest House Paradiso comes from the brilliant minds of a famous British ‘alternative’ comedic due, Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson. For any American readers, the concept of ‘alternative’ comedy might seem a tough daunting so for your benefit, I will explain where alternative comedy came from with a brief history lesson.
It’s the 1970’s in Britain and the ‘sitcom’ was very much considered to a ‘middle-class’ affair. It was all very ‘nice’ comedies with nice people making nice jokes and
occasionally finding themselves in a compromising and humorous situation. Sitcoms such as Fawlty Towers and The Good Life appealed to this demographic of bored middle-aged couples with nothing else to do with their evenings. In the meantime in Manchester, two men met at Manchester University and in time, would become comedy legends with a career that would last nearly 40 years.
In the 1980’s, the traditional British sitcom was about to change. A show started on BBC2 (The more adventurous and anarchic of the BBC channels) called ‘Boom Boom, Out Go The Lights’ which basically consisted of a stage and a live audience. It was a show where young comedians could show off their talent and be seen by the British public. It is
here where Rik Mayall and Nigel Planer made their televisual debut. Rik was the peoples poet and Nigel’s character, Neil was a depressed, hippy folk singer. Their characters
were successful which showed the BBC that there was an audience for this type of comedy. Thus, ‘The Young Ones’ was born.
Rik Mayall and Nigel Planer joined forces with Adrian Edmondson, Christopher Ryan and writer, Ben Elton (who would go on to write the later series of ‘Blackadder’) brought
forward a television show that was punky, anarchic and broke all of the rules. The comedy was generated from the absurd and unrealistic characters, the unusual situations and the outrageous levels of cartoon violence. As if being a ratings success was not enough, the show also had a hit number one single as the boys performed ‘Living Doll’ with Sir Cliff Richard (Rik’s idol). The Young Ones lasted for two series of six episodes and finished in a very final fashion. But one of the unique features of this show was the on-screen relationship between Rik and Vyvyan (Edmondson). Vyvyan was the young punk who enjoyed destroying things and beating up Rik. This pattern would repeat itself in every one of the duo’s future characters.
After leaving ‘The Young Ones’, Rik and Adrian formed another unusual duo (but one of my very favourites) ‘The Dangerous Brothers’. Rik became ‘Richard Dangerous’ and
Adrian became ‘Sir Adrian Dangerous’. It was here were Rik and Adrian properly perfected the art of smacking each other around and making it funny. Their short but hilarious sketches were played on ‘Saturday Live’ on Channel 4 and included such brilliant scenes such as ‘Babysitting’, ‘Torture’, ‘Crocodile Snogging’ and ‘How To Get Off With A Lady’.
After ‘The Dangerous Brothers’ finished, Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson joined up with Nigel Planer once again to create ‘Filthy, Rich and Catflap’, a sitcom revolved around
a not-funny comedian who was never successful and dreams of having his own game show (Mayall), his always drunk minder (Edmondson) and his perverted agent (Planer). The show lasted for one series and is rather unappreciated. It tried something different and it wasn’t offensive which is always a good thing.
But Rik and Adrians next project would rocket them into infamy. ‘Bottom’ started in 1991 and lasted for three series until it’s finish in 1995. It centres around Richard ‘Richie
Richard (Mayall) and Edward ‘Eddie’ Elizabeth Hitler (Adrian) as two thirty-somethings living at the bottom of society. They have no jobs, are useless with women and are just
generally horrible to each other. Bottom follows an usual trend in comparison to todays sitcoms where Bottom actually got better as the series went on. Others think differently
but in my opinion, the last series was the best with some of the best half-hour of comedy that I have ever seen. Me just simply explaining it does not do it justice. Most of the really funny stuff is on Youtube but you can always buy the DVD’s. There are three series of six, half-hour episodes so you can fire through them in a day.
Their portrayals of Richie and Eddie led to 5 live tours and of course, their own movie. Guest House Paradiso, which is where the actual ‘review’ will begin. So, the plot.
Richard Twat (Mayall, pronounced Thwaite) and Eddie Elizabeth Ndingombaba (Edmondson) are running the worst hotel in the UK. The staff are miserable, the guests are miserable and the owners are intolerable, but hilarious. Although they have different surnames, rest assured that these are the same characters from Bottom. That is obvious from the general attitudes of the characters and the brilliant fight sequences. After a sequence of events that leads to most of the guests checking out, Richie and Eddie are desperate to make a bit of cash. It is then that beautiful actress, Gina Carbonara (Helene Mahieu) arrives at the hotel when escaping her vicious fiancee and the press. They realise that the appearance of Ms Carbonara can drum up some business. Unfortunately with the chef having eaten all of the food and then pissed off, Richie and Eddie are forced to feed the guests radio-active fish that was being driven to the nuclear power station next door (which is shaped like a gigantic cock and balls). Normally, that’s when I turn it off. Whilst I love the film up to that point, the ending is seriously disgusting. I’ve said before that it takes a lot to make me feel sick but the ending to Guest House Paradiso
just about gets me there.
The film gives off a both great and painful atmosphere of some of the guest houses that might look familiar to some British people who are used to holidays by the seaside and
definitely doesn’t look like a film set. The set was also complete with small crawl-ways where Richie can hide behind the walls and perv at newly-wed couples.
It should be said that there are some top-class actors in this film. Fenella Fielding (Carry On Screaming) plays the longest resident, Mrs Foxfur and three participants from
another one of my favourite films appear. Bill Nighy and Kate Ashfield are the two posh residents and Simon Pegg (his first feature film) plays Mr Nice who brings his
family to the hotel for a cheap holiday and is in for a rough time.
The idea for Guest House Paradiso came along when Rik and Adrian were performing their third live stage show, Hooligans Island. They would spend all day in their hotel before going on stage at night. Eventually, the idea bloomed and they wrote their first draft which in a timed reading came to around three hours and forty-five minutes. Their
second draft which was cut down to the best jokes came to two and a half hours. Adrian Edmondson finished the final draft to cut it down to ninety minutes as Rik Mayall
was convalescing after a quad bike accident in 1998. Since he finished the last draft, it was generally decided that Adrian Edmondson should direct the film. With a budget of three million British Pounds Sterling, the film was considerably low budget but they did accomplish so much with so little which is just in their nature.
After Guest House Paradiso, there were two more Bottom live shows and whilst there were a few occasions in where they performed together, Weapons Grade Y-fronts (2003) was their last show and they went their separate ways. Whilst there was some talk about making Hooligans Island into a sitcom, it never came to anything.
Sadly, Rik Mayall passed away on June 9th, 2014 and an outpouring of grief swept across the UK, most of it coming from my flat. The news of his death was upsetting on a
number of levels, one of the reasons being that I thought I would never be able to watch his material again without being sad. This turned out not to be the case. I can still
watch anything with Rik Mayall as his performance in everything that he is in is always utterly flawless.
If I ever convince a nice guy to marry me and he tricks me into having kids, I will show them Bottom and say ‘This is how comedy should be! Not this kind of ‘politically
correct’ shit that you kids are watching these days! Watch this, and learn!’
Both Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson in the years since Bottom ended have proved themselves as serious actors and have had solo careers that they can both be proud of but together, they created a new wave of alternative comedy that has kept us all laughing for nearly 40 years. So to close I wish to say to Adrian Edmondson, I wish you the very best of luck with all of your future endeavours and I know that you will continue to keep me entertained; To Rik Mayall, I say we all miss you and it’s a testament to your immense talent that even after you’re gone, you will always be remembered and to both Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson together, I say ‘Thank You’.