Petty thief and wannabe antiques dealer Gerald Arthur Otley (Tom Courtenay) is evicted from his Portobello Road digs – despite “servicing” his landlady (Maureen Toal) – because he’s three months behind in his rent.
After a drunken night on the town, he wakes up the next morning on the sofa of a reluctant acquaintance and finds that he is wanted by the police for his murder.
It turns out that the deceased acquaintance was a defector from a secret organisation known as ICS – so on top of being pursued for the murder (which he did not commit), he also becomes the innocent dupe of a bunch of agents, counteragents, double agents and plain old bad guys.
Otley – who describes himself as “last year’s winner of the Duke of Edinburgh Award for lethargy” – finds himself in one nearly fatal crisis after another, as police and foreign agents chase after him in a wild week of misadventures during which he is beaten, bombed, shot at, kidnapped, swindled, coshed, trapped, stomped, karated, chained, starved, jailed, seduced, handcuffed, and dynamited.
Romy Schneider contributes little more than an expression of heavy-lidded languor as female agent Imogen who leads Otley into trouble, while Alan Badel is a stock villain – urbane, detached and sinister – and Freddie Jones is amusing as a swishy executive of a shady news organisation.
Directed by comedy legend Dick Clement who co-authored the script with Ian La Frenais
Gerald Arthur Otley