The film focuses on a somewhat awkward young man named Murdoch Troon (Stanley Baxter). He’s a Scotsman living in London where he rents a room in a boarding house. One of his fellow boarders is a smarmy cad of a used car salesman named Freddie Fox (Leslie Phillips). Murdoch’s main leisure activity is riding his bike along the British country roads. But one day his ride is disturbed when he is run off the road by an impatient driver…mangling his bike in the process.
Murdoch manages to track down the driver, the pompous, and very wealthy, Commander Chingford (James Robertson Justice). At first, Chingford refuses to pay for the damages, but is soon swayed by his beautiful daughter Claire (Christie). Murdoch ends up taking quite a liking to Claire, and it’s clear she fancies him too. However, she is a bit surprised to learn that Murdoch does not own a car or know how to drive. It turns out that Claire has a great appreciation for men who drive nice cars. This leads to an opportunity for Freddie to take Claire out for a spin in his car.
As it turns out, Freddie is on the verge of losing his job as a car salesman since he hasn’t made a sale in weeks. So now he sees an opportunity. He stokes Murdoch’s jealousy enough to convince him to buy a car from him so he can impress the lovely Claire. The car he sells him is a vintage Bentley named “The Fast Lady.” Only problem is, remember, Murdoch doesn’t know how to drive.
After a disastrous session with a driving instructor, Murdoch gets Freddie to teach him to master the road. This lands the two of them in jail for a brief time. But Murdoch is not deterred. Though he is still far from an expert driver, and doesn’t even have his liscence yet, he heads over to the Chingford estate to pick up Claire. But first, he must take the Commander out for a drive to prove his abilities. When he fails Chingford’s overly strict test, Murdoch makes a counter bet to test the Commander’s driving abilities…which he also fails. This means Murdoch can take out Claire. But the matter of his driver’s test still remains. Freddie tries to rig the proceedings by paying off an examiner, but Murdoch lands the wrong guy. To make matters worse, a cop commandeers Murdoch’s car during the test, putting him right in the middle of a high-speed chase to catch some bank robbers.
I was pleasantly surprised with how much fun I had with “The Fast Lady.” Apparently this is just one of several films that teamed Stanley Baxter, James Robertson Baxter, and Leslie Phillips during the 1960’s. It’s clear why, the cast works very well together. There’s really nothing extraordinary about their characters, you could even say they are a bit cartoonish. They’re pretty standard characters…the proud, determined Scot, the pompous, overweight British noble, and the thin moustached cad. But it all works! The performances are solid and, best of all, funny. As for Julie Christie, what can I say…she’s great! She probably has the most challenging character of the film. Claire knows she’s a sucker for a guy in a fast car, but she also appears to be legitimately smitten with the somewhat dorky cyclist, Murdoch. Their scenes together are just plain sweet. No wonder audiences fell in love with her.
Of course, as I’ve pointed out in other reviews, I am not a sucker for fast cars. I don’t fall in love with a film just because it had a great car in it. Still, the numerous driving sequences in this film impressed me. They are well done from both an action and comedic standpoint…with even a slight nod to the slapstick car chase sequences of the silent era.
“The Fast Lady” is a great little comedy. It’s got a leading man you want to root for, a love interest you’ll fall for, and a couple of nemesis’ you’ll love to hate. Three cheers for the British!