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Film / The Knack... and How to Get It

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The Knack... and How to Get It is a 1965 British comedy film directed by Richard Lester, adapted by screenwriter Charles Wood from the 1962 play The Knack by Ann Jellicoe.

Colin (Michael Crawford — that's right, the guy from The Phantom of the Opera) is a generally nervous, sexually frustrated high school maths teacher in swinging '60s London. He is envious and jealous of Tolen (Ray Brooks), a drummer who is renting out a room in his house. Tolen is a highly successful Casanova who beds hot women by the score. Colin asks Tolen to teach him "the knack" for picking up babes, and Tolen gives him some (generally unhelpful) advice about being confident and dominant.

Meanwhile, Nancy (Rita Tushingham), an innocent, virginal young woman, has arrived in London for the first time, and is seeking a room at the YWCA. She wanders around in frustration for a while until she finds Colin and his friend Tom (Donal Donnelly), an artist who has just rented another room in Colin's house, struggling to move a cast-iron bed frame (Colin has acquired a bigger bed to facilitate sex with the ladies). Romantic sparks and madcap silliness ensue.

Directed by Lester while he waiting for The Beatles to finish up their tour commitments so they could make Help!, it features the film debut of three actresses — Jane Birkin, Jacqueline Bisset, and Charlotte Rampling — who each appear here as extras, and all of whom went on to become big movie stars. (Birkin rides on a motorcycle with Tolen, Rampling is one of the women who goes water skiing with Tolen, and Bisset is one of the women in line for the reunion of Rory's girlfriends near the end, as well as one of the women in the opening Imagine Spot.)


  • Absurdly Ineffective Barricade: Colin attempts to bar Rory the ladies' man entrance to the house by nailing a 1x2 strip of wood to the door. It occurs to him that since the door opens inwards, he can't get out now, so the absurd inefficacy of the barricade works to his advantage when he removes it.
  • Adaptation Title Change: A slight one, since the original play was just called The Knack, and that was also the working title for the film, but the studio added ... and How to Get It for the release, feeling it might help the film grab more business.
  • Ascetic Aesthetic: Tom moves into the townhouse advertising for a tenant (without notifying the landlord first) and immediately empties out all the furniture and paints it completely white — floors, windowpanes and all.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Tolen's coming-on-strong approach in the park with Nancy ends with her fainting. He does not rape her, but when she wakes up she starts bleating "Rape! Rape! I was raped!" Then she starts singing the word "rape!" She marches down the street shouting and singing "Rape! Rape! Rape!" Soon enough she's gone back to Colin's room and taken off all her clothes, still joyfully squealing "Rape!" as the three men debate who should be the one to rape her.
    [Nancy knocks on random door to house. Woman answers door.]
    Nancy: [happily] Rape!
    Woman: Not today, thank you.
  • The Casanova: Tolen, who is handsome and extremely confident and has a never-ending cast of hot babes cycling through his room. Amusingly, Nancy's rejection of him seems to break Tolen's confidence, and at the end he's one of the prudish disapproving Greek Chorus commenters.
  • Chucking Chalk: Colin the math teacher zings his chalk at a boy who is being particularly blatant about gawking at the female students exercising outside. Hypocritical, as sexually frustrated Colin would like nothing better than to gawk himself. Later, in the break room, another teacher compliments Colin on his aim.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Tom. He chucks all the furniture out of his room and paints every inch of the room white.
  • Creator Cameo: Richard Lester can be seen as a balding fellow on the street, standing next to a lady with big hair, giving a disapproving look as Colin, Tom, and Nancy roll the bed past him.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: The boys in Colin's math class are distracted by the girls from another class, who are flouncing around outside the window for P.E., hitting a ball around with skirts flying up in the air. Colin throws a piece of chalk at one boy, but also imagines himself outside gawking at the teenage girls.
  • Double Entendre: Many. When Colin is clumsily nailing a narrow plank to the door in an attempt to prevent Rory's entrance, a woman in the Greek Chorus voiceover says "I hope I always get a kick from the feel of a length of wood."
  • Enter Stage Window: After Tom the weirdo dumps all the furniture in his room into the hallway so he can paint the entire room white, everyone is forced to enter and exit the house from the window in Tom's room.
  • Erotic Eating: In the opening Imagine Spot, one of Tolen's girlfriends makes a big show out of sticking out her tongue and eating a hors d'oevure off of a cracker.
  • Fainting: Tolen's attempted seduction of Nancy ends with her calling him "Mr. Tight Trousers" repeatedly and yelling "Don't come near me!". That transitions to her babbling "tight trousers... come near me... tight trousers... come near me". Then, in a state of high agitation, she faints.
  • The Ghost: Rory, Tolen's friend and rival Casanova. Tolen talks about inviting Rory to rent the other room in the house, which horrifies Colin — but Tom the goofball rents the room instead. Near the end there's a reunion of the many, many girlfriends of Tolen and Rory, enough to necessitate the Albert Hall; we see Rory's girlfriends in a line outside, some carrying signs with his name. Tolen eventually admits that Rory has even more girlfriends than he does. Rory never appears onscreen.
  • Greek Chorus: The action is accompanied by a constant stream of commentary from older folks who disapprove of the younger generation and their wild, sexually liberated ways. Sometimes it's voiceover and sometimes the starchy old folks appear onscreen, addressing the camera as they criticize the wild antics of swinging '60s London. Amusingly, Tolen joins them at the end, carping with disapproval as Nancy and Colin walk off arm in arm.
  • Imagine Spot: The film opens with a long line of sexy babes, all dressed in identical tight sweaters, all in a line waiting to walk up to Tolen's room. Eventually Colin appears in front of the camera and admits that it isn't really that bad.
  • Literal Metaphor:
    • Nancy is riding on the cast iron bed frame that Colin and Tom are toting across town. As they lift it up to carry it down a flight of steps, she says "I've been picked up, haven't I?"
    • The father of one of Rory's conquests comes to the house looking for his daughter. He tells Nancy to beware of "the Indian hemp." Just when the viewer is assuming that this is a drug reference, an Indian man strolls past on the sidewalk and the angry father says, "Hello Mr. Hemp!"
  • No Name Given: Tolen flatly refuses to tell anyone his first name.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Ends with a shot of Nancy and Colin arm in arm, walking off down the riverside.
  • Repeat Cut:
    • In a comic sequence where Colin tries to build a barricade on the door to prevent Rory from entering, the scene where he dashes down the stairs yelling "I'm not having it! Having it... NO!" and slams the door shut is repeated several times.
    • The scene near the climax of Tolen's encounter with Nancy where he grabs her head, and kisses her on the top of the head, is repeated several times.
  • Rewind Gag: When the commotion Nancy is making in the park causes a cop to peek in, the three guys claim they are "Just tidying up the park!" This is accompanied by a shot of the three of them "tidying up the park" that is clearly a shot of the three men littering the park, played backwards so that the litter flies up into their hands.
  • Scenery Censor: After Nancy strips naked in Colin's room, one shot has her sitting at Colin's drum set with the cymbals carefully staged to cover her naughty bits.
  • Scooby-Dooby Doors: A surreal sequence in which Tom and Colin chase after Nancy and Tolen (the latter riding together on Tolen's motorcycle), and follow them into a junkyard. For some reason the junkyard is fenced off by a series of doors that all face the street. They zip in and out of one door after another. At one point Tom and Colin open a door to find, somehow, a family at the dinner table.
  • Sexy Sweater Girl: The opening sequence in which Colin imagines all of Tolen's girlfriends in a line, waiting to ascend the stairs to his room, has all of them wearing identical short skirts and tight, tight sweaters. Later, when all of Rory's girlfriends are lined up to enter the Albert Hall, they're all dressed identically in those same tight sweaters.
  • Smoking Hot Sex: It's strongly implied that Colin and Nancy had sex in his room, partly by the scene afterwards that shows Colin leisurely smoking a cigarette, the first time in the movie that he does.
  • Title Drop: Colin asks Tolen to teach him "the knack" for seducing women.
  • Unreveal Angle: Nancy is standing outside a photo booth waiting for her photos when a woman enters it, hands her clothes through the curtain to her boyfriend outside, and poses for photos. The boyfriend picks up Nancy's strip of pictures, and Nancy picks up the woman's strip of nude photos, but we can't see them, only Nancy's wide eyes as she looks at them.
  • Visual Innuendo
    • In the opening Imagine Spot one of Tolen's girlfriends is sexily licking stamps.
    • The girl that Tolen brings to the house attempts to remove Tolen's leather glove with her teeth. The shot of her taking Tolen's fingers one at a time in her mouth is quite obviously phallic.
  • White Void Room: Tom sees that a room is for rent in Colin's home, moves in unannounced, and promptly starts painting everything in it white, including the furniture, floor and windowpanes. Tom is a bit mad, and was evicted from his last place for painting it white.