Sure enough, Hammer Films came up with a greatly enlarged version of the series which counted its television fans in the millions.
Hammer was more renowned for horror than comedy, but they were so keen about this project that hearses had to give way to double-decker buses, corpses had to make way for clippies and graveyards had to be cleared away for bus garages.
And so Stan, Mum, Olive, Jack, Inspector Blake and Arthur moved over to EMI-MGM Elstree Studios, taking with them the Town and District Bus Depot.
While the essential character of the TV series remained, the big screen gave far more latitude to the producers, with the results being bigger, faster-moving and funnier than anything that came before from this talented team.
The bus company has the brazen impudence to employ women as bus drivers, in what had been an exclusively male preserve. This shattering decision is taken on the advice of Inspector Blake (Stephen Lewis) in order to rectify his staff shortage problems.
Naturally, Stan (Reg Varney) and Jack (Bob Grant) are dead against the move from the start.
Firstly, the employment of female drivers means less overtime for the chaps, but far worse, the lady drivers – unlike the ‘clippies’ – are not dolly enough to be worth the trouble of chatting up.
For the male drivers, the outlook is bleak and depressing and the only happy man in the depot is Blakey, whose staffing problem is now solved.
Matters move from bad to worse for Stan when his Mum (Doris Hare) and married sister Olive (Anna Karen) involve themselves in a hire-purchase commitment. Olive’s husband, Arthur (Michael Robbins,) will have none of it and refuses to help with the instalments.
This puts the entire responsibility on Stan who, with no prospect of any more overtime, sees himself becoming acutely financially embarrassed in the near future.
Stan persuades Olive to apply for the vacant cook job at the bus depot canteen so she can help out with the HP repayments.
She gets the job but her first attempt at cooking lunch for the bus crews ends in utter disaster. The food is ruined and the kitchen wrecked.
Before anyone can fire her, Olive discovers that she is not only pregnant but has been in the family way for the past four months.
She leaves the canteen to await the happy event and her place is taken by Bridget (Brenda Gogan,) a cute bit of Irish who can also cook and immediately catches Stan’s eye.
This is just the beginning of a rollicking tale of busmen at work, at play and at love. On The Buses made every bit as successful a transition to the big screen as did Till Death Us Do Part. It became the most popular British film of 1971.
The Butlers live at 2 Malden Road. Stan (badge registration number AZ721) and Jack (AZ431) work on bus route 13 to Town’s End (via Wellfield Street and Mulberry Circus).
Inspector ‘Blakey’ Blake