After the third world war a man is sitting down listening to the latest news from the BBC (Frank Thornton). In a recap the BBC relates that it is the third anniversary of the shortest war ever. The entire war lasted two minutes and twenty-eight seconds and that included the signing of the peace treaty. The man is Blues Martin (Michael Hordern). He is one of a few survivors of the war and appears to be a doctor. He is visited by Lord Fortnum (Ralph Richardson) who is looking for a diagnosis. Fortnum hasn’t felt well since the bomb was dropped and feels he may be turning into a bed sitting room. Martin tells him it could be atomic mutation.
Meanwhile Penelope (Rita Tushingham) lives with her father (Arthur Lowe) and her mother (Mona Washbourne) in one of the compartments on the still running Circle line tube. Penelope is seventeen months pregnant from her boyfriend Alan (Richard Warwick), who lives two compartments down. When Penelope’s parents find out she is pregnant her father decides they need to leave the circle line and find a nurse.
Out in the world they find a menagerie of strange people trying to exist. Nurse Arthur (Marty Feldman), who is the National Health Services, gives Penelope’s mother a death certificate. A man living in a shelter (Harry Secombe) is the regional seat of government. He lives with his second wife, a giant paper doll named Doris. The Police Inspector (Peter Cook) and the Police Sergeant (Dudley Moore) continually tell everyone to keep moving along so that the enemy won’t be able to get a bead on them. There is a man with balloons stuck to him who is referred to as Plastic Mac Man (Roy Kinnear) and various other wackos.
Penelope is forced to marry Martin but still sleeps with Alan. Lord Fortnum does turn into a bed sitting room. Penelope’s mother turns into a wardrobe and is placed in the bed sitting room as part of the furniture. Penelope’s father turns into a parrot and is eaten for dinner. Penelope finally gives birth but the baby is deformed and soon dies. The Police Sergeant turns into a dog.
Things are looking bleak for the survivors until word comes that clouds of poisonous nuclear fog will no longer be necessary and mutations will stop. Also a team of surgeons have successfully completed the world’s first body transplant. The donor was the entire population of South Wales. Everyone is convinced that the world is in for a time of peace, prosperity and stability. Penelope is once again pregnant but now with a normal baby.
They all pay homage to Mrs. Ethel Shroake (Dandy Nichols). Since the Royal family was wiped out and as the Queen’s former charwoman she is the next in line to ascend the throne. To honor her they sing the new National Anthem "God save Mrs. Ethel Shroake, Long live Mrs. Ethel Shroake, God save Mrs. Ethel Shroake of 393A High Street, Leytonstone".
“The Bed Sitting Room” was released in 1969 and was directed by Richard Lester. It is a British apocalyptic comedy. In the beginning credits the cast are listed according to height.
I have seen reviews of the film that refer to it as brilliant, poignant, impactful, underrated and outstanding. I think the fact that so many people loved it is wonderful. I am therefore not ashamed to admit that I didn’t get most of it. British humor can be an acquired taste. I like British humor for the most part. It’s sometimes droll, sober and satirical. All good things but sometimes it can go over your head, especially if you’re an American. The best description I can give it is absurd, which probably goes nicely with the filmmakers intentions.
Reportedly director Richard Lester was depressed at being able to find outdoor filming locations so quickly and that needed little dressing to look post-apocalyptic.