Doctor in Love (1960)

“I am not having any turpentine enemas.”

The vintage British comedy Doctor in Love, follows the antics of two newly-qualified doctors–Burke (Leslie Phillips) and Hare (Michael Craig), as they are unleashed on an unsuspecting world. The film begins within the confines of Saint Swithin’s Hospital where the young doctors are under the thumb of the autocratic Sir Lancelot Spratt (James Robertson Justice). With a few weeks break before beginning their new jobs, Burke–the more adventurous one of the pair–persuades Hare to spend two weeks at the Foulness Anti-Cold Research Unit. And this really is the funniest section of the film, with Burke and Hare (named after the body snatchers, by the way) fighting off infection while chasing two strippers who are also at the research facility.

Doctor in Love would be a much better comedy if it concentrated on the misadventures of the two doctors, but there are a few serious elements thrown into the plot, and this inhibits the humour. On one hand, Burke, who is a lecherous playboy (and the film really livens up when he’s on the screen), has the most outrageous ideas of how to run a practice, but rather than follow this lead, the film instead plunges into a boring serious subplot involving Dr Hare. The film would be a lot better if it threw itself wholeheartedly into Burke and Hare’s misdeeds instead of trying to add serious elements. After the strippers, the burlesque show, and the lonely lovelorn widow, the serious subplot is jarring, boring, and out-of-place.

Doctor in Love was made before anyone invented the term politically correct, and the comedy is naughty rather than bawdy. There are some appearances here from some of the best British comedy talent. Liz Frazier and Joan Sims (who both appeared in Carry On films) play the strippers Leonora and Dawn, Reginald Beckwith plays Wildewinde, Irene Handl stars as Professor MacRitchie, and Fenella Fielding is Mrs. Tadwich. The film, one in a series of ‘doctor’ films–is based on the novel written by Richard Gordon. From director Ralph Thomas.

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