Work Is a Four-Letter
Word (also known as Work Is a 4-Letter
Word) is a British satirical comedy film
directed by Peter Hall,
adapted from Henry Livings' play
"Eh?" and starring David Warner and Cilla Black.
It was not well-received by
critics and is notable for being Black's only starring role in
Everyone is employed by the ultra-modern, fully-automated DICE
Corporation but Valentine Brose (Warner) would rather stay at home
to tend his psychedelic mushrooms
than work. However, his bedroom is too small for this purpose and
he is under pressure from his fiancee Betty Dorrick (Black) to
settle down. Accordingly, Brose seeks a job in DICE's boiler-room,
which would give him a suitable environment in which to grow his
The plot describes his attempts to get the job, and the conflicts
with DICE middle-management, including the personnel manager, Mrs
Murray (Spriggs, in her first film role). Having obtained it
however, Brose is more interested in tending his mushrooms than
tending the boiler, with unforeseen results including a major power
cut. The boiler room contains a computer (for some reason), which
towards the end of the film is also breaking down.
Brose eventually marries Betty, but is more interested in having
her sweep up the boiler room so he can concentrate on his first
love, the mushrooms. Eventually he goes haywire
and the film ends with a
mushroom-driven escapist sequence, Brose and Betty load up a
with mushrooms and escape the
had established a
reputation for playing off-beat rolesdating from Morgan: A Suitable Case For Treatment
and was a member of the Royal
, already working with Peter Hall
had not previously had a
starring role; she had appeared briefly in 1965's Ferry Cross The Mersey
vehicle for Gerry & The
. She recorded the theme song for the film, having
the same title, which was released as the B side of "Where Is
Tomorrow?" in 1968; the single reached number 39 in the UK Charts.
This would be Black's only starring role in film.
Most of the remainder of the cast were members of the Royal
Shakespeare Company (Waller, Howard, Church et. al.
stalwarts of British realist drama (Gladwin).
At the time Variety
magazine compared the film thematically with Charlie Chaplin
's Modern Times
but was critical of its
"irritating air of improvisation" and described the storyline as
"thin", albeit praising some of the off-beat situations as "very
was even more
scathing, describing it pithily as a "weakly futuristic industrial
fantasy which the author would probably claim to be about lack of
communication. Bored audiences might have a similar view".
- The song was later covered by The Smiths as a track on the single
"Girlfriend in a Coma"