If ever a film deserves the description of "cult film", The Bliss of Mrs Blossom is it. Largely ignored on its release in the late sixties (I can remember seeing it in a virtually deserted cinema in Baltimore) it is so much a product and reflection of its time that it probably started to date within a week of being finished. But that is part of its charm - the sounds, the colours, the art, the fashion, and (most importantly) the attitudes and seeming innocence of that era. It was one of a handful of films that genuinely caught the atmosphere of "Swinging London".
The basic plot is simple and allows for much imagination and fantasy. Bored, artistic housewife Shirley MacLaine is married to workaholic bra manufacturer Richard Attenborough and takes an oddball lover, James Booth, who takes up residence in the attic. In addition to sex, each character has their own obsessions. For MacLaine, it is art and fashion; for Booth it is learning how to do just about everything through "how to" books. Attenborough gets two obsessions: conducting music and a lifelong quest to create the ultimate bra, which explains his neglect of the fetching and seductive MacLaine. Throw into the mix the campest of camp police inspectors, an equally over the top shrink, and a parade of eccentric bit parts and you get a collection of characters who are totally unreal, but leave you wishing that there really were people like that.
Plot and subplot are episodic with frequent detours into fantasy, all of which makes about as much sense as the music of the day. But it is the humour and the performances that make this such a wonderfully quirky film. MacLaine has seldom been better and this is easily the best of her Sixties weirdo films that included misfires like Woman Times Seven and What A Way To Go. Richard Attenborough is surprisingly good considering what a limited actor he seemed to be in other films. But James Booth is the best of the three leads. He seems to have grasped the mood of the piece better than anyone else. Why stardom eluded Booth is a minor mystery. Perhaps he just never got the right vehicle.
The rest of the cast is filled with people who were, or were about to be, popular British television comedy stars. Such as John Cleese (in a bit part as a postal clerk), Clive Dunn (an eccentric inventor - is there another kind?), Willie Rushton (a long suffering policeman), Bob Monkhouse (the shrink), Patricia Routledge (Attenborough's secretary) etc. But stealing scene after scene from everybody is Freddie Jones in one of his first roles. His performance as a police inspector raised (or lowered)camp to an art form of its own. Most of his lines are not funny in themselves. But the way he says them...
Some viewers may not like the very Sixties-esque camera work or the overblown music, but the film would suffer without them. It is a film of excess made in an era that thrived on excess. A museum piece it may appear now, but an extremely funny one. But the film is more than funny - it is that rarest of things these days - charming.