Why didn’t I like The Bed Sitting Room? Everything was in favor of me liking this movie. I’ve always been a fan of British comedy. More so, I’ve always been a fan of Richard Lester. More so, I’ve always been a fan of Lester's frequent Python-esque stabs at surreal humor. More so—wait, Lester made a movie containing such Python forebears as Spike Milligan, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, and...and...oh, oh...
Goddamnit, I got jizz all over my keyboard. Now Lester's gonna have to come and clean this up. Why? Punishment for his movie failing to live up to my absurdly high expectations. The Bed Sitting Room has all the ingredients designed to tickle my funny bone—dark, end of the world humor: check; the already-mentioned participation of Lester et al.: check; Python-esque flights of fancy/absurdity/surrealism: super check—but everything about this movie just left me cold. I didn't laugh a once.
An end of the world comedy, The Bed Sitting Room is a mish-mash of various absurd characters dealing with life in a nuked England: a man is in the process of turning into a bed sitting room (by the way, British readers, is a bed sitting room an actual thing on your side of the pond, or is this just a random string of words); a woman, eighteen months into a pregnancy, ventures with her boyfriend and parents out of the London tube and into the wasteland above; two bureaucrats hover about in a blimp, making sure that the various folks they encounter keep a move on, lest the now-non-existent enemy gets the better of them; and Spike Milligan shows up intermittently to be silly.
Again, as I said before, I couldn't figure out why this movie left me cold. Maybe it's just too British, and thus over my yank head. But that can't be it. As mentioned already, plenty of super-Brit stuff has left me rolling with laughter. Maybe, it's a time thing: comedy is specific not only to cultures but to eras. What one generation finds funny may be dreadfully boring to the next. But that can't be it. There are plenty of comedies much older than this movie—any early Marx Brothers movie, for instance—that I still find rip-roaringly funny. Maybe the slipshod let's-string-a-bunch-of-sketches-together plotting left me cold. But that can't be it. Monty Python's The Meaning of Life is just a series of sketches, and I always laugh at that. What could it be?
One tangible fault that I could find with the movie, was the obtrusive score. Not a scene went by that wasn't accompanied by bombastic comedy music. That was certainly a bummer. But still, I can't say this alone would account for my tepid response to the movie. Maybe it's just one of those inexplicable things. Some things work; others don't.
I should note that I ain't the only to feel this way about The Bed Sitting Room. Indeed, this movie was such a box office bomb that Lester couldn't get work again for about four years. Speaking of which, from a marketing standpoint, I don't know that it's the best idea to announce on your poster (in bigger font than the title, no less), "We've got a bomb on our hands." Is it any wonder that this movie...um, you know, didn't do well. (You thought I was gonna say bomb, didn't you? Dangnabit, I just went ahead and said it.)
All in all, I appreciate the effort of this silly film. Audacious in almost every respect, The Bed Sitting Room is basically the absurd, silly, social-critique satire take on Peter Watkins' infinitely depressing The War Game. And for that I applaud it; I just wish I liked it.