White Cargo

Year: 1973

Director: Ray Selfe

Stars: David Jason, Imogen Hassall, Hugh Lloyd, David Prowse, Sue Bond, Tim Barrett

Meet Albert Toddey. He’s… well, he’s a nobody. A Joe Everyman with dreams. However, Albert’s dreams are interesting…

White Cargo walks us through the last few weeks of Albert’s life, as he gets his dream job – one with the government, in a position of responsibility. and in the flashbacks, we see just how fascinating Albert’s dreams are.

Going to a strip club with a free entry ticket, he sees a girl being harassed by a hulking bruiser. In his mind, he transforms into a James Bond super-hero type and saves the girl. When he acts this out in reality, he gets clobbered, soaked, and thrown out. But this is just the start of the journey into espionage, white slavery, sex trafficking, and police investigations.

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This is an early outing for David Jason, who of course went on to become an established part of British comedy royalty. It’s always good to see stars in their formative roles, and he’s very believable as Albert. As the situations become increasingly more bizarre, and the actions of his alter-ego become further removed from the way his real self copes with pompous officials, villains, girls destined for the white slave trade, kidnap and finally a battle between Albert and a half-dozen armed heavies in a warehouse, you can’t help but warm to his character, and you can clearly see glimpses of the Granville character from Open All Hours come through.

Of the other actors, the stand out is the beautiful but tragic Imogen Hassall. Imogen sadly took her own life at 38 after a life filled with heartbreak led to depression. This simply adds more depth to the on-screen view of her as a happy, bubbly woman with a captivating smile and a whole lot of talent. As Stella, the undercover cop whom Albert initially tries to rescue from the bruiser, she is both strong and vulnerable, being a perfect foil for Albert’s twin persona.

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To be fair, the rest of the cast are far less believable, with David Prowse being as solidly wooden as his role required, and the script isn’t really up to much. That misses the point here though.

It’s a film that engages you far more than it should, and the sum of it’s best parts (Jason and Hassall) raise the film above the mundane to a far more enjoyable level. As a comedy of its time, it still holds up well, and gives a glimpse of a London now long-gone.

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