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"Can't remember the sixties; don't worry nor can they". Withnail and I has not only become one of the classic films of underground British cinema, it also launched the careers of two up and coming actors who are today household names.

At the time Paul McGann was beginning to get noticed for his work, and was cast in the role of I. We never find out the character's name. Alongside him the virtually unknown Richard E Grant was cast as Withnail and the two produced one of the best double acts in film.

The basic premise is this. It is the last few weeks of the sixties. The two characters are out of work actors who share a squalid flat in London and live on pills, alcohol and grass. They are scared to go near the pile of washing up in the kitchen as it seems to be inhabited and the flat is so cold that they wear numerous layers of clothes to bed. Both the flatmates agree that they need to have a break from the cycle of drugs and poverty that have become the norm. Withnail persuades his rich uncle Monty to let them have use of a holiday cottage in the country and so the two city boys head off into an adventure of utter chaos as they find themselves even more out of their depth than usual. Add to this the arrival of Uncle Monty who has designs on his nephew's young friend and you have the basis of the film.

Although the plot seems to be nothing out of the ordinary, what makes this film a classic is the acting. A low budget film has nothing to rely on but the skill of its cast, and the three main characters turn in a performance that make this one of the classics of British cinema.

Grant as the permanently half-cut Withnail is totally believable, a feat-and-a-half when you discover that he is actually a non-drinker. For some scenes he supposedly drank large vodkas to get into character, and his performance is the show-stealing part of the film.

He also gets some of the best lines from what is an altogether very funny script. In the same way that some people can recite the classic lines of Monty Python, "I demand booze" is destined to become a standard phrase in pubs throughout the land.

McGann is the more sensible foil to Grant's eccentricities. More down to earth and less emotional, he is the straight man of the piece, the 'Ernie Wise' to Grant's 'Eric Morecambe'. Uncle Monty played by Richard Griffiths is a joy to watch. Played with the right mix of campness and aristocratic traits that Griffiths does so well, Uncle Monty becomes the third piece of the unwitting triangle.

With the story line being so straightforward, the film can almost be viewed as a series of sketches each of which is hilarious in its own right. The fluidity of the scenes seems to have been affected by the open nature of the shooting. A lot of improvisation was tried and tricks such as using vinegar in the place of strong spirits seems to have given some more honest, and less acted, reactions. There are some classic moments; an encounter with an Irishman who takes a dislike to the pair produces some great comedy moments, as does the drunken duo dining out in a posh tea room. As I said before, this film is all about the acting, and some of the best comedy moments you will see lie in these scenes.

The script was originally intended to be a book only and the I character is based somewhat on director Bruce Robinson's younger days. The film is a must for any student, or anyone who has lived in what they considered the flat from hell in their formative years. Whatever you went through and whomever you shared with, it wasn't a patch on these two and their domestic set up....I hope.

In a sentence, one of the most underrated and little viewed films of the British Cinema...ever.