A crime caper with a Cornish setting starring Barbara Windsor sounds a lot of fun, but turns out to be rather a dull affair. Crooks in Cloisters sees a bunch of East End gangsters hop-footing it to a remote Cornish island in order to carry out a counterfeiting operation whilst posing as monks.
Windsor absolutely is a British icon and national treasure, but this picture doesn’t measure up to the work in the Carry On series or particuarly makes good use of her. Windsor, with that much-copied beehive hairdo and Cockney Judy Holliday tones (think Born Yesterday via Bethnal Green), is wasted here. Though her character name – Bikini – suggests something of a firecracker, she’s mostly consigned to the kitchen to prepare food for the gangsters and complain about this and that.
The major issue with Crooks in Cloisters is that for a crime caper it’s a pretty boring one. The script is the problem as it could have been mined much better for fish out of water qualities but instead chooses – because of the island setting – to cut off the crims from prying eyes. For the characters, all proper duckers and divers, the quiet life becomes less a cover and more a promising fresh start. Yet animal husbandry escapades and attempts at growing vegetables hardly makes for riveting plot strands.
The crooks are also unlikable sorts and their redemption and comeuppance doesn’t really ring true. The leader, Walt (Ronald Fraser), gives the deeds to the island to a couple of ‘proper’ monks at the end and this seeming good gesture is meant as atonement for their very many sins, despite being taken away by the Old Bill.
As an example of 1960s British comedy it may have some nostalgia value but modern audiences are bound to be unimpressed. It is worth noting the appearance of Francesca Annis and Corin Redgrave in small roles and a guest appearance from Steptoe and Son icon Wilfrid Brambell as a smuggler. Yet these are mere points of interest historically and nobody’s finest hour on screen.
Though it makes good use of Cornish exteriors (shot at St. Mawrs outside Falmouth), the studio-based interiors look cheap and shoddy. Jeremy Summers’film turns out to be all mouth and no trousers, as a Cockney gangster might well say.
UK Release Date:
Crooks in Cloisters is released Monday 9th July