The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold; Go and suck a boiled sweet, Mr Cronenburg

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The Independent Online
Another hectic week. As the legendary Motoring Correspondent for the old Punch magazine (1955-1988), I have been inundated with requests from both the wireless and the gogglebox to put forth my views on the rights or wrongs of the film Crash directed by Mr David Cronenburg (dread name!). I dare say they were after me to say something "shocking" and "controversial" - and they weren't disappointed!

I made it clear at the outset that my own experience of motoring is very different from Mr Cronenburg's. In more than 40 years of pleasurable motoring I have never received so much as an endorsement, though I was once cautioned by a traffic warden in the East Horsley area for parking - albeit briefly - on a double yellow line, an error for which I have no excuse, but which I trust, in the fullness of time, may be viewed with forgiveness by the goodly burghers of that estimable conurbation.

Frankly, the word "crash" is not in my vocabulary, though in early June, 1967, I remember suffering a minor prang from a passing vehicle (a Ford Cortina, or possibly a Hillman Hunter) on the B2798 just outside Chiddingfold. For me, motoring and safety walk hand in hand. Incidentally, I note with alarm that not a single character in Mr Cronenburg's Crash takes the elementary precaution of wearing driving gloves with proper ventilation holes to ensure a firm hand on the steering-wheel at all times. Small wonder, then, that they come such awful croppers when the road ahead proves skiddy.

Perusing this film (never "movie", if you please!), I was struck by the difference between my own wide range of motoring experiences - many highly entertaining! - and the vastly limited range exhibited within. Might I mention just one or two areas where our memories differ?

First, I always make it a firm rule to keep a tin of boiled sweeties in the left hand glove compartment - excellent for sucking on long journeys, and a positive boon where rowdy children are about! But nowhere in this film is there the barest mention of boiled sweeties. Do we take it, then, that Mr Cronenburg has bowed to pressure from the dental health lobby, or is he merely exercising some personal bugbear?

If, as seems possible, the director was obliged to cut all boiled-sweet footage owing to reasons of length, might it be possible to issue a longer version, David Cronenburg's "Crash" - with Boiled Sweets" for those of us with the sweeter tooth? I have little doubt that sales of confectionery in the interval would amply justify the additional footage.

Second, I was gravely disappointed that the main actors made so little use of their rear-view mirrors: the briefest glimpse before turning left or right, coming to a halt or proceeding at a reasonable pace proves invaluable in the battle for road safety.

Similarly, as the brains behind the original "Clunk Click Every Trip" slogan, I have no doubt that more conscientious use of their seat belts among those occupying starring roles would have greatly cut down the casualty toll in Crash, perhaps even to single figures.

But my third and most heartfelt objection to the film is that Cronenburg does so little to emphasise the sheer pleasure to be had from a good day's motoring. There is nothing I like more than to chug along a rolling English country road, going neither too fast nor to slow, taking in the beautiful scenery, the delicious country smells, the quietly meandering pace of rural life, perhaps with a little light music - Lloyd Webber, say, or Whittaker - whistling away in the background. Yet of such delights there is nothing in Crash: in fact, I barely caught a glimpse of the countryside in all its 118 minutes.

What an opportunity has been missed! I imagine Mr Cronenburg is now truffling around for a rather more amusing new film to compensate his losses on this one. Without wishing to push myself forward, might I suggest Wallace Arnold's World of Motoring - The Movie? Here is the very first scene:

Ext. Country road. Pleasant sunshine. Day.

Wallace is seen driving along, puffing on his pipe, taking care to look in his rear-view mirror at regular intervals. He dips into his glove compartment for a boiled sweet.

WALLACE: A green one! My favourite boiled sweety! Tra-la! Let's see if Ed Stewart has anything worth listening to on the Light Programme! My, look at that gorgeous view of vivid English meadows! I see a hitch- hiker! Yoo-hoo! Always nice to wave at hitch-hikers as one hurtles past!

And so on. A winner, surely? And a family film to boot!

Over to you, Cronenburg!