Handmade, the troubled holding vehicle for Handmade Films, the company behind British comedy classics like Monty Python's Life of Brian and Withnail & I, has received an approach by Almorah Services after prolonged speculation over its future. Proof perhaps that you should always look on the bright side of life.
No formal offer had been made, and the terms of any potential bid are unclear. Handmade, founded by the late Beatle in 1978, is valued at £22m - but for British film fans it really is the kind of company to which it's hard to ascribe a monetary value.
If it wasn't for Handmade, we may never have had the pleasure of Life of Brian at all. The comedy classic nearly died a premature death, when original backer EMI withdrew funding over fears the script was blasphemous. Then Harrison stepped in and, as the film's Pontius Pilate would say, ‘weleased Bwian' - to cwitical accwaim.
Brian may just be a comedy, perhaps, but it has proven a timeless product. In fact its central tenet - an ordinary man at pains to point out to that he's not the Messiah - has cropped up again 40 years later in real life, with London-born author Raj Patel having to defend his mortal status from similar claims this year.
If one cult comedy classic wasn't enough, Handmade then came out with Withnail & I in 1987. But recently it's been struck with the kind of headache and fiscal misfortunes that blighted the film's two actor-bum heroes: in January, it suspended its shares for the third time in three years after uncertainty surrounding its financial position. A week later, chairman Richard Northcott stepped down, followed in February by the group's joint chief executives Patrick Meehan and David Ravden.
The company also arranged a £2 million interim loan that was secured against its film library to enable it to finalise a review of its financial position. All of which may have contributed to the company feeling, in Withnail parlance, ‘like a pig shat in my head'.
With the amount of trot being released these days, it'd be a shame to see a company that bore such highlights of cult British cinema get swallowed up, like a load of lighter fluid by an out of work actor. Especially in a week when Ricky Gervais, our current ‘king of comedy', has swapped his old style of painfully well-observed humour for the ‘heartwarming' Cemetery Junction.
Things are at least looking up for Handmade. Time for a toast perhaps - with the finest wines available to humanity.
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