P'Tang Yang Kipperbang
It's 1948 and Alan 'Quack Quack' Duckworth (John Albasiny) is daydreaming through another school day. His life plays out to a cricketing commentary (by John Arlot) with each major event in his life coming as though he were stepping up to the wicket en route to a century. Duckworth's problem is that his life is entirely absent of major events. Every morning he prays to God to let this day be the one that he kisses Ann Lawton (Abigail Cruttenden) but every day passes without joy. Instead, there are only moments of disappointment. When his class vote for the dishiest boy, they forget to even count Duckworth in the voting. He gets caught by his teacher, Miss Land (Alison Steadman), in the middle of an end-of-class rummage with Eunice (Frances Ruffelle). And he is late every day, spending each lunchtime in the company of the headmaster. With his cane too, if he's unlucky. Then Miss Land offers him a role in the school play opposite Ann. On page fifty-one, the last page, his moment comes - he gets to kiss Ann! The next morning, he prays once more, this time in thanks.
Produced for Channel 4 and broadcast during the station's first week, P'tang Yang Kipperbang is well-remembered by those who saw it. Which included this viewer - then just turned eleven - but who's taken until now to see how it ends. My mother was somewhat upset by all the talk of tits, dicks and brassieres in what had seemed like quite a gentle romantic comedy. Teenage love, a first kiss (and 'the other') and a post-war optimism all come in the film's short running time but so too does disappointment, not least Duckworth finding that perhaps he can't bat for England in front of thousands. It simply might not be for him.
Actually, P'tang Yang Kipperbang - the title comes from a phrase that Duckworth and his friends greet one another by - is a very gentle comedy, taking place during a beautiful summer and, one suspects, at the end of the school year. The days are long and begin early in the morning with Duckworth praying to God. Keeping himself away from the sins of the flesh - he wears a boxing glove on his right hand to stop any fumblings of 'the other' on himself - Duckworth asks that he simply get one kiss from Lawton. The play seems the perfect opportunity and P'tang Yang Kipperbang builds to the actual performance nicely. There are various subplots that offer more drama than the central romance, including an affair between Miss Land and Tommy (Garry Cooper) the groundsman though which she falls pregnant, as well as much whimsy amongst the staff and pupils of the school but the focus remains Quack Quack and Ann and a lovely little romance it is too.
This falls short of a Gregory's Girl but only in the sense that it does seem made for television and though there are surprises in its view of teenage romance, it comes down to a predictable final act. However, the real joy of P'tang Yang Kipperbang comes in its characters. The presence of Alison Steadman ensures there is drama beyond what occurs between Duckworth and Ann while John Albasiny is very good as the film's lead. Looking older than fourteen (or thereabouts) and with a tendency towards verbal blustering, Duckworth has much to learn during the course of P'tang Yang Kipperbang not least that the things that are there for the taking may not really be what he really wants after all. But come the setting of the sun, John Arlot has Duckworth stride away from the crease to the cheers of the crowd. The God that he prayed to every night did indeed worth in mysterious ways.
Film 4 may have done much for cinema and for the showing of features on television but it certainly doesn't do much for DVD at least not on the evidence of this release. The picture quality is terrible throughout. There's an incredible amount of grain but this doesn't come with any more detail in the image. Instead, the quality of the picture is soft and fuzzy with any background (or even foreground) detail lost in a swarm of grain and poor mastering, presenting the film non-anamorphically with an aspect ratio of 1.43:1. Add to that much print damage, this is an awful-looking release, particularly after Channel 4 have done so much good work elsewhere. The audio track is only a little better with the dialogue being fairly clear but still capable, at times, of getting lost behind background noise. Certainly, one doubts if Channel 4 or the now free-to-view Film 4 would present P'tang Yang Kipperbang in this state, which makes it all the more surprising that they have released it on DVD. Finally, and as probably the only plus-point about this DVD release, there are English subtitles.
There are no extras on this DVD.
Channel 4 DVD
76 mins approx