Sidney Stratton (Alec Guinness)

Before you watch this film you have to make sure you know it’s not really a straight-up comedy. Instead, think of it as classic science fiction and 1950’s social commentary with dry humor woven into it. The film follows Sidney Stratton (Alec Guinness) who goes from being a nobody who we only catch out of the corner of our eye to the most dangerous man alive. He invents a material that is nearly indestructible and thanks to a static charge, repels dirt. In other words, very similar to what nanotechnology and Bucky balls have been promising material science for years.

It Repels Stains! Just Like Dockers!

The reason it’s so dangerous is because if clothes are made from it and they never wear out, then the customer buys it once, for life. That’s no good for the head nor the hand of the textile industry, making Stratton an enemy not only of the bosses, but of the workers from whose ranks he rose. Stratton thinks his invention will save the world and doesn’t see the danger it poses. A washer woman drops the bomb on him late in the film when she asks why scientists can’t leave things alone because if there is no washing to do, what will she do?

The suit and what it represents is obviously a reference to the atomic bomb and the danger that science for science’s sake can pose when applied. The humor in this film is so dry that when Alec Guinness gets bonked on the head you can easily miss it if you blink. If you go into this film with science fiction on the brain and your eyes and ears peeled for the humor, you will enjoy it. I recommend it.