Egghead’s Robot (1970)

Egghead's_Robot_(1970)‘I’m batting very well today.’

Working with his sister in his father’s garden shed, a precocious young genius invents a robot double so he can get out of his chores. He also intends for the robot to take his place on the local Cricket team, as his own terrible performances have made him unpopular with his school friends.

The Children’s Film Foundation were a U.K. concern funded by tax breaks, which made hour long, low budget features for British kids that were shown at Saturday morning picture shows and on television. They were in production for over a quarter of a century, until the money ran out due to government legislation. The chief pleasure in watching this cheap, quickie comedies is spotting familiar faces from British TV, both as child performers and as adults.

Keith Chegwin is far better known in the U.K. as a television presenter (‘Cheggers Plays Pop!’) than as an actor but that’s how his career began. At the age of 10, he’d starred as Paul ‘Egghead’ Wentworth in ‘The Troublesome Double’ (1967), inventing a robot that looked like his sister to win a swimming race and confound the local ‘mean girls’. Three years later, he was at it again in this semi-sequel, creating a double of himself so he can escape his chores and the humiliation of playing cricket. Richard Wattis (‘Carry On Spying (1964) and the long running TV show ‘Sykes’) returned as Eggheads father but Patricia Routledge (the lead in popular sitcom ‘Keeping Up Appearances’) replaced Josephine Tewson as the mother. The evil park keeper was played by Roy Kinnear, familiar from countless TV comedies and the ‘Three Musketeers’ movies of the 1970s.

Egghead's Robot (1970)

‘And now it’s time for the Hotbox Quick Quiz!’

This is harmless entertainment from a more innocent age. The humour level is pretty basic, featuring mistaken identity, pratfalls and speeded up footage to represent the robot’s abilities. The robot is brilliant at cricket but, of course, a series of mishaps lead to Egghead himself having to play in the climactic match against his team’s bitter local rivals.

Chegwin’s twin brother Jeff plays the robot (very badly) and the SFX are simply a metal box strapped to his back and a few winking lights on machinery in the shed. Everyone is terribly, terribly posh as the U.K. media was not big on regional accents at the time (whereas now everyone has to have one!)

This would have worked far better as a 30 minute short, rather than at twice that length. The comedy is woefully predictable and painfully repetitious – just how many times can Kinnear fall into that muddy hole? This is far more interesting now as a reflection of the times when it was made than as entertainment.  A bit of a chore to sit through.

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