Marketed as something of a forgotten gem of British comedy by distributors StudioCanal and available for the first time ever on DVD to commemorate its 50th anniversary, Michael Truman’s Go to Blazes (1962) is a charmingly light, cheerfully petite film about a trio of motley amateurs and their attempts at planning and executing the perfect heist.
After one of their many smash-and-grab jobs is scuppered by a passing fire engine which causes their speedy getaway to grind to a halt, Bernard (Dave King), Harry (Daniel Massey), and Alfie (Norman Rossington) are imprisoned for two years, allowing them plenty of time to concoct a plot to act out upon their eventual release.
Acquiring a fire engine of their own, the foolhardy crooks plan on passing themselves off as firefighters in an attempt to rob a jewellery store and get away unhindered by traffic. However, when they become mistaken for real firemen and Harry embarks on a relationship with Chantal (Maggie Smith) – a sultry employee of a nearby dress salon – their strategy slowly begins to unravel, with comical results.
With a trim eighty minute running time, Go to Blazes doesn’t take its time in delving into the characters and their schemes. Truman seems to reject fully characterising his protagonists, painting them as nothing more than petty crooks without clearly defined motivations. The script, penned by Patrick Campbell and Vivienne Knight, rarely delineates any evidence regarding why they are doing what they are doing, and although it rarely hampers the overall jovial tenor of the film, it would have helped to discover the driving force behind their camaraderie.
As the dapper Harry, Massey gives a standout performance, making his escalating romance with Chantal watchable, yet ultimately weightless due to the fact that it is bereft of a fitting resolution, unlike the film’s inevitably predictable, albeit amusing, climax. Although it arrives on a disappointingly bare disc devoid of any indicative or retrospective special features to shed light on the production, Go to Blazes is ultimately a harmless little film that ruminates on a cunningly original gambit but doesn’t have the firmness to explore it on anything more than a superficial level.