Charles Dyer, who wrote the stage and screen versions of "Staircase," adapted his 1963 play "Rattle of a Simple Man" for the estimable director Muriel Box. Now long forgotten, both his play and its 1964 screen version work as the '60s predecessor to Judd Apatow's "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," dealing as it does with a pathetically inexperienced middle-aged man.
Diane Cilento plays with Harry H. Corbett's rattle in Muriel Box's British sex comedyThe title always struck me as playfully sexual.
On stage, the piece starred Edward Mulhare as the 40-year-old virgin and Tammy Grimes as the game woman who rescues him from his innocence/repression. (A very young George Segal played a supporting role on stage.)
That's a good cast, but I can hardly imagine it topping the film version's stars - Harry H. Corbett and the delectable Diane Cilento (who, at the time of the film's release, was best known for her supporting role in Tony Richardson's "Tom Jones" and also as Mrs. Sean Connery).
Percy (Corbett) is out with his soccer friend in London for the Cup Final and they end up in the company of a prostitute named Cyrenne (Cilento). Percy's friends are clearly aware that he is sexually inexperienced and, via a drunken bet and in attempt to make a fool of him, nudge Percy towards spending the night with Cyrenne.
What follows is a dialogue film, essentially set in one room, in which Percy and Cyrenne spar and get to know each other. Will she lure him into bed? Will he win his bet? Meanwhile, their on-going conversation is juxtaposed with scenes of his buddies getting progressively drunk.
Much like "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," the film is harsh and sweet, and Cilento is a revelation. But the film clearly belongs to Corbett, an endearing actor who starred in "Crooks and Coronets" (1969) and "Steptoe and Son" (1972) and died in 1982.
Muriel Box, the film's director, was one of the most productive female filmmakers her in day, perhaps best remembered for the sublime 1955 farce, "Simon and Laura," starring Peter Finch and Kay Kendall, an incomparable duo, as husband-wife actors who agree to do a daily BBC television show because they need the money (shades of reality TV), and "Subway in the Sky" (1959) with a very good Van Johnson as a military doctor in Berlin falsely accused of illegal dealing in drugs. Hildegard Knef co-starred.
Note in Passing: The stage version of "Rattle of a Simple Man" opened at the Booth Theater in New York on April 17, 1963.