Till Death Us Do Part: The Complete 1974 Series

DVD Rating: ***

Reviewed by: Gary Duncan

Read Gary Duncan's film review of Till Death Us Do Part: The Complete 1974 Series

A lot of thought has gone into these Extras and for fans of the series there are a couple of real gems, including a grainy, black-and-white extract from the original Comedy Playhouse pilot from 1965 and Arguments, Arguments, the first ever episode. There's also the Royal Wedding episode from January 1974, not seen since its original transmission. The episode's a collector's item, even though the picture and sound quality is patchy.

Johnny Speight, the man who created Alf Garnett, recalls how the BBC rationed him to 25 "bloodies" per script and how he did a deal with a BBC producer who said he could have one "tit" for every four "bloodies".

Growing up in the East End was tough, Speight says, but his family were more fortunate than most, or so he thought. "It was quite clean, you know. We took out all the piss pots and things. We never knew poverty then and we thought we were quite well off. Wasn't till I grew up that I realised we were very poorly off."

Even from an early age he had ideas about being a writer - not the most obvious career choice for a working-class East End boy. "Writing wasn't a common trade in the East End," he recalls. "Didn't teach it at school. Only people who left the East End were footballers and boxers and the odd politician."

The school he went to "was mainly concerned with turning out factory fodder," he says. "And half the teachers couldn't read and write properly."

Speight, however, did okay for himself. The series had a weekly audience of 25 million, spawned two movies and was sold to the US, where it was repackaged as All In The Family. We see Speight with his flash motor - a silver Roller with a MOO 16 plate - and his posh house. The boy done good, but success never changed him and Speight still comes across as Cockney as pie and mash.

"People in the East End didn't talk much," he says. "I suppose that's why I probably speak so badly . . . no one ever told you how to speak or enunciate words or vowels and things. Never heard of them! I couldn't even talk to birds. If we saw a bird we fancied we used to throw stones at her!"

Alf Garnett was never meant to be a working class hero. Speight created him to poke fun at him. It was supposed to be a one-off hatchet job, but he'd unwittingly created a monster. He sticks by Alf, though, and makes no excuses for his foul-mouthed rantings.

"You don't improve things by not noticing them, by making out they're not there," he explains. "Some people complained about Garnett referring to coons as coons. The colour thing, you don't sweep it under the carpet. Let's have it out in the open."

Speight makes it clear where he stands, however. "People like Alf will never change. Old soldiers never die, they just fade away. And I hope he'll fade away. I hope my children will never grow up to be like Alf Garnett."

Reviewed on: 28 Nov 2004
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Till Death Us Do Part: The Complete 1974 Series packshot
Foul-mouthed rantings from Alf Garnett, the Cockney bigot.
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Product Code: 7952175

Region: 2

Ratio: 4:3

Sound: Dolby Digital Mono

Extras: Late Night Line-Up — a profile of Johnny Speight from 15 September 1972; extract from the original Comedy Playhouse pilot; Arguments, Arguments — the first ever episode from 6 June 1966; Johnny Speight’s original script PDF; Royal Variety Performance sketch from 1972

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