That Sinking Feeling (1978)

Director: Bill Forsyth

Starring: Robert Buchanan, Billy Greenlees, John Hughes, Gordon Sinclair, Drew Burns, Allan Love

Written by: Bill Forsyth

Running time: 93 mins

Original UK Cert: A

Original UK Release: 29th August 1979

Before Bill Forsyth made it big with the now classic Gregory’s Girl and Local Hero, he cut his teeth making this forgotten gem, a low budget heist movie with a difference. The difference being that money or diamonds or gold are not the prospect targets for the crime…but sinks. if you get the chance to find this gloriously nutty comedy, you are in for a treat, if you can get past the shaggy long hair and the enormous flairs.

Dave is a bored teenager, unemployed and living in Glasgow (a fictitious Glasgow). With no prospect of ever making any money, he and his friends spend their time roaming the streets and eating corn flakes. Then Dave comes up with an idea, after seeing the price of sinks in a store. To get together a gang and steal their warehouse full of the stainless steel objects. With a plan involving two of the guys becoming women and a potion that will put the drinker to sleep, they prepare to hit the big time.

Like Gregory’s Girl, That Sinking Feeling is full of absurd delights. It is littered with moments that are both hilarious and strange. Starting off with Dave talking to a statue of an anti-war hero about the importance of good exam results is only the start of a wildly inventive journey, filled with wit and charm, even if the strong Glaswegian accents can sometimes be difficult to understand.

Using the members of a Glasgow Youth Theatre, the same company who made up most of the cast for Gregory’s Girl, including Gregory himself, Gordon John Sinclair in a minor role, and filmed entirely on location in Glasgow, Forsyth had to ask local businesses to help finance it, at the price of £5,000. At the time, it was the cheapest film very to get a cinematic release and was in the Guinness Book Of Records for exactly that reason. The American market was harder to crack, with the lack of understanding as far as the broad accents were concerned, so the dubbed it, which cost more than the film itself.

There’s a raw energy about the film. The camerawork is slightly shaky and the performances aren’t exactly Oscar contenders but there is so much on offer here that you cannot help but be swept along with the nonsense. From the man trying to convince himself he’s a girl after being given the job of distracting the night guard, to the potion that is given to a driver of the van the boys need to shift the sinks, that leaves in him in a state of consciousness with his arm in the position of holding a cup, it has so much to recommend it, that it puts most other British comedies to shame.

Forsyth’s career hasn’t been a rosy one. After making it big with Gregory’s Girl and Local Hero, he went to Hollywood and everything crumbled, especially after making the disastrous Being Human with Robin Williams. In fact, Forsyth hasn’t made a film since 1999, when he directed the ill-conceived and poorly received, Gregory’s 2 Girls. It has been announced that he is returning to the screen with a new project and I hope it’s as good as his early work, like Sinking Feeling, because here is a man who isn’t afraid of the absurd, who can make a film on a shoestring budget and still make it look and feel like it cost so much more and he is that rare talent, a writer/director whose work isn’t just liked but fondly held to people’s hearts.

I remember the first time I saw Gregory’s Girl, it was like it spoke to me (I was an awkward teenager at the time) and it is in my top ten of the greatest films of all time. That Sinking Feeling, which I saw after, wanting to discover everything about Forsyth, is a film that hasn’t lost any of its bite and even though it does look dated, with the late 70’s hair and fashion, if you can see through those trappings, you will find a film that will delight, that you will remember and that, more importantly, will make you laugh out loud. It is the perfect companion to Gregory’s Girl and as both are now on Blu-Ray, maybe a night with a genius is called for.

5/5

 

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