I watched The Chain (1984).
Written by Jack Rosenthal, this jolly little British film is a comedy about house moving in 1 day in London. The opening credits show us the city’s skyline, just before the Docklands developments and also Canary Wharf and the great 80s/90s monstrosities were constructed.
Warren Mitchell is Bamber, the gaffer for a crew of removal men working for Last Removals, who in fact end up doing 2 jobs on a day when they were only hired to do one. As they travel around Bamber expects the others to help him with his revision for a quiz about the history of western philosophy, and so we hear them chattering about Descartes and Plato during their many tea breaks.
First part of the chain is young Des, leaving his mum in Hackney to go to a flat with his girlfriend in Tuffnell Park. He’s being moved in a car by Stan, played by Ron Pember.
The flat in Tuffnell Park is being vacated by Keith and Carrie, who are first-time buyers for a flat in Willesden.
The flat in Willesden is being vacated by Alison and Dudley, and they are using Last Removals to get them to their new home in Hammersmith.
The house in Hammersmith is being left by old skinflint Mr Thorn and his long-suffering wife Betty. He’s stripped the property of absolutely everything he could move.
The Thorns are planning to move to Hampstead, to the house of Mrs Andreos, but she’s had a moment of unhappiness and decided she doesn’t want to move again.
She had arranged to move to Holland Park, to take over the house left by the highly aspirational couple Deidre and Alex, and their kids Mark and Rosemary.
The trouble with Mrs Andreos doesn’t prevent their move to Knightsbridge, to take the home now being quit by sad old Thomas, who seems to be setting out on a rash new life change following a medical diagnosis.
In between the acts we see a baglady travelling about central London.
So we have a more-or-less inclusive panorama of the different social classes of 80s London, like Mrs Dalloway but much more fun. Alison and Dudley seem to be a rising young professional couple, but the term “yuppie” wasn’t circulating at that point and it’s rather vague about what exactly they do for a living – they’re too twee to be grabby financial people. The flat they are selling to Keith and Carrie has a price of £29,000 which would be pure fantasy for anyone in the capital 40 years later. Just to nod to the fact that life isn’t so easy for everyone, Des gets bothered by a PC after his curtain-twitching new neighbours notice him sitting outside for a while.
Some TV sitcom punks move in to squat one of the properties during the great migration:
There is of course a surprise loop back bringing all the threads together. Miserly old Mr Thorn gets his comeuppance, Mrs Andreos gets a heartwarming message from Bamber. Altogether this is almost like a prototype for Richard Curtis films 20 years later, at the time when Richard Curtis was writing Blackadder and sketches for Rowan Atkinson. This version is better than Love Actually, actually.
In amongst the poignant moments about life and love and death, there is one unintended extra piece of sadness: Deidre and Alex’s daughter Rosemary was played by Charlotte Long, who died in a road accident later that year. Her death was mentioned in Alan Clark’s Diaries (see the link).
The cat is called “Princess Diana”. Another unfortunate cross-connection.