On the Fiddle (1961)





(director: Cyril Frankel; screenwriters: Harold Buchman/based on the novel “Stop at a Winner” by R.F. Delderfield; cinematographer: Edward Scaife; editor: Peter Hunt; music: Malcolm Arnold; cast: Alfred Lynch (Horace Pope), Sean Connery (Pedlar Pascoe), Cecil Parker (Group Capt. Bascombe), Stanley Holloway (Mr. Cooksley), Alan King (Top Sgt. Buzzer), Eric Barker (Doctor), Wilfrid Hyde-White (Trowbridge), Kathleen Harrison (Mrs. Cooksley), Eleanor Summerfield (Flora McNaughton), Terence Longdon (Air Gunner), Victor Maddern (First Airman), Harry Locke (Huxtable), John Le Mesurier (Hixon), Viola Keats (Sister), Peter Sinclair (Mr. Pope), Ann Beach (Iris); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Benjamin Fisz; AIP; 1961-UK)
“Unassuming British WW II comedy B-movie.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Undistinguished filmmaker Cyril Frankel (“The Executioner”/”The Devil’s Own”/”Why Bother to Knock”) directs for AIP this cheapie Brit wartime comedy. This was Sean Connery’s last role as a nobody before he achieved international fame with his first Bond role one year later. It’s also the worst film I’ve ever seen him in. The film was released in England in 1961 as On The Fiddle, but due to Sean’s sudden fame it was re-released in the States in 1965 as Operation Snafu and tried to capitalize on the Bond film’s success.

On the Fiddle is a British colloquialism for a hustler on the take. It’s written by Harold Buchman, who bases it on the novel “Stop at a Winner” by R.F. Delderfield. The comedy mixes in stock footage, which at times gives it a more realistic wartime feel.

Horace Pope (Alfred Lynch) is a fast-talking cockney scam artist working the military recruitment line in London when nabbed by a copper. He’s given a suspended sentence because he claims he was enlisting, but the judge orders him to really enlist and sends along a cop to ensure it happens. Once in the R.A.F., Horace teams with another volunteer in his squad Pedlar Pascoe (Sean Connery). This strapping lad is a dim-witted but amiable gypsy who goes along with Horace’s opportunistic schemes for three years. Pedlar is the muscles and Horace the brains behind the schemes. It leads to the climax, where the boys are sent into the fighting area for the first time and accidentally become heroes when they get into a rear-guard scuffle with a squad of Nazis in the woods and the two of them kill the menacing Nazis. They then return to Cornwall as war heroes and take over running the pub they ran during the time they were stationed there but were forced to leave when a crooked American sergeant (Alan King) got them transferred overseas because they refused to give him bribe money to keep open the pub. The only hitch in Horace’s return to Cornwall is that the butcher’s daughter, Iris (Ann Beach), whom he was sweet on while stationed at another post, surprisingly shows up with his child.

The unassuming British WW II comedy B-movie was just that, but when promoted in the States as something it wasn’t (a Bond film) it falls flat on its kisser.