Original release: April 26th 1949
Re-release (UK): June 5th, 2012
Running time: 84 minutes
Director: Henry Cornelius
Writer: T. E. B. Clarke
Cast: Stanley Holloway, Margaret Rutherford, Barbara Murray
Sometimes you just don’t know how good things are until they change. Whether it’s our wives, husbands, apartments or even the way a country is run by its government – the things we fret over now might end up looking like small potatoes tomorrow, so relax and try to find the good in them instead of looking at how much the grass is greener on the other side.
In this Ealing Studios classic, that’s exactly what the residents in Miramont Gardens in Pimlico come to realise.
Set in the time shortly after World War II, it’s a bustling little community where everybody goes about their business despite the destruction the area suffered from German bombing. Still, there’s one unexploded bomb left, but when it accidentally goes off, the damage it causes reveal a previously unknown treasure trove deep underground.
After the residents retrieve it, a squabble breaks out about who owns what and everyone wants to take responsibility for the bomb going off in order to claim their share. It comes as surprise when Professor Hatton-Jones (Margaret Rutherford) informs them the treasure once belonged to Charles VII, the last Duke of Burgundy, and by royal charter, still in effect from all those centuries ago, Pimlico is legally part of Burgundy.
Realising they’ve all foreigners in their own country, it doesn’t take them long to start reaping the advantages of this legal loophole. Residents soon start ripping their ration cards to shreds, opening bars until late and playing music without a licence – the police can’t do anything because Pimlico is now outside of the UK’s jurisdiction.
This doesn’t come without a price though. Traders and vendors from other parts start springing up, taking advantage of tax exemptions and the freedom to sell knocked-off goods. With that comes tight border controls and it’s soon impossible for the good people of Miramont Gardens to get in or out of their houses.
As the residents try to form a committee to get some order brought back to the area, they find themselves cut off completely. With no food and no running water during a drought, the British government try to push them to give up their Burgundian rights and re-join the rest of the country, but with their will of steel and the support of other good folks, they won’t give up their new-found freedom so easily.
Passport To Pimlico’s witty and intelligent script is brought to life brilliantly by its cast and it’s a film that moves at a quick pace. The banter between the characters is a delight to listen to and the comedy is visualised in such a subtle way that makes it all the more funnier.
At the same time, the film also highlights many of the struggles people faced every day in their lives after the war; having to deal with rations and go about their daily routines never knowing if there might be an unexploded bomb nearby just waiting for the right moment to go off.
Through all of this though, Passport To Pimlico is unmistakably an Ealing film and bears all of its hallmarks with its good humour, gentle satirical approach and typical Britishness we’ve come to know, love and expect from these films.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .