On the Buses (film)

On the Buses is a 1971 British comedy film directed by Harry Booth and starring Reg Varney and Doris Hare. The film is the first spin-off film from the TV sitcom On the Buses and was followed by two further films, Mutiny on the Buses (1972) and Holiday on the Buses (1973). The films are set within a slightly different canon from the TV series: Stan and Jack work for a different bus company (Town & District instead of Luxton & District), and the three films form a loose story arc where Arthur and Olive become parents (despite their apparently sexless marriage).

On the Buses
Directed byHarry Booth
Written byRonald Chesney
Ronald Wolfe
Produced byRonald Chesney
Ronald Wolfe
StarringReg Varney
Doris Hare
Anna Karen
Bob Grant
Stephen Lewis
Michael Robbins
CinematographyMark McDonald
Edited byArchie Ludski
Music byMax Harris
Distributed byMGM-EMI Film Distributors
Release date
  • 1 August 1971 (1971-08-01) (UK)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£90,000[2][3] [4]
Box office£2,500,000[5]

The film was produced by Ronald Chesney and Ronald Wolfe for Hammer Films,[6] and enjoyed major success in Britain, outdoing Diamonds Are Forever to become the highest-grossing film of 1971.[7] The tongue & cheek lyrics to the "On The Buses" film theme song were written by British pop song writer Roger Ferris also producing the recording at Abbey Road Studio's, Quinceharmon fine vocal performance secured a release on EMI's Columbia label.


Stan Butler (Reg Varney), a bus driver for the Town & District bus company, becomes worried that the overtime he is making – which his family is using to buy expensive items such as a washing machine – will soon end when the company rectifies its current lack of employees. His concerns become justified when the company decides to revoke a long-standing rule that prevents women from being employed as bus drivers, much to the chagrin of both Stan and his long-time colleague and friend, Jack (Bob Grant). The loss of overtime that he was making forces Stan to persuade his sister Olive (Anna Karen) to get employment in the company's canteen. Following a disastrous start, she and her husband, Arthur, soon discover that she is pregnant, resulting in her losing her job and forcing the Butler family to send back the items they can't afford to pay for. At the same time Stan gets into trouble with the company when, while attempting to recover something of Jack's from a woman he had been seeing, he manages to inadvertently demolish both a telephone kiosk and a bus shelter in trying to avoid being caught by the woman's jealous husband. Despite his efforts to lie about why he caused the damage, Blakey (Stephen Lewis), the bus company's Inspector, takes delight in informing Stan that he has to undertake a driving test on a bus skid pan in order to keep his job. However Blakey soon regrets supervising the test when Stan gets his own back by beginning the test with Blakey still on the bus being used for it.

Stan manages to pass the test, but he soon becomes worried that the employment of women bus drivers will affect both his and Jack's layabout lifestyle at the company. It would also reduce their pay and prevent Jack from conducting amorous flings with women on the company's time. The pair decide that the best way to prevent this from happening is to sabotage the company's new employment scheme by making the women drivers look bad, and initially pull off small pranks. Later, when Stan witnesses Olive being terrified of a spider, he and Jack gather some to plant in the cabs of the women's buses, causing further disruption with their driving. These, however, have little effect, until Stan comes up with the idea of lacing their tea with a diuretic, upon learning of what it does when Olive acquires some for her pregnancy. This results in the women drivers being forced to make frequent loo stops while on their routes.

As Olive's pregnancy draws closer to term, Arthur requests Stan's help in fixing the springs on his motorcycle's sidecar to prepare it for the trip to the hospital. While bringing the springs into the depot to get them fixed, amongst a few small things for the new baby, he and Jack discover that the company recently ordered a number of diversion signs to be made to reroute buses away from roadworks in town. Deciding to take advantage of this, the pair arrange for more to be made for their own use, then planting them out on the women's routes, thus causing even more trouble. One such false diversion causes a woman driver to get forced onto a motorway, causing her and Blakey, who was on board, to get in trouble with the police.

A mishap occurs in getting her to the hospital, but Olive manages to give birth to a baby son; but the joyful arrival soon brings disruptions to the Butler household as they struggle to cope with the new child. Meanwhile, Stan and Jack are delighted to learn their sabotage efforts were a success when the company announces its decision to no longer employ women bus drivers. Their celebration however is short lived when they learn that Blakey re-hired the women drivers they tormented as inspectors, and they promptly separate the two onto different routes. Although the pair are not happy about this, Stan soon sees a silver lining to their situation when he is twinned with Sandra (Caroline Dowdeswell) a new attractive female clippie for his route. The story ends with Stan and Sandra managing to cause trouble to Blakey by knocking down a sign onto him and the other inspectors, much to Stan's delight as heads off to do his route.



The film was made on location and at Elstree Studios at Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.[8] Stage 5 at Elstree was used for the exteriors of the bus station both in this film and in the later sequels.[9]

The film includes shots of a London AEC Routemaster RM200 (VLT 200) undergoing the skid tests at the Chiswick Works "skid pan".[10]

The buses used in road shots were Eastern National Bristol KSW5Gs numbered 2359 (VNO857), 2367 (VNO862), 2371 (VNO866) and 2376 (WNO476).[10]


The film opened at the ABC Ardwick & Studio 2 cinemas, both in Manchester, on 1 August 1971. [1]


Box OfficeEdit

The film was the second most popular movie at the British box office in 1971,[11] and returned more at the UK box office than the year's James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever.[7] By June 1972 it had earned EMI a profit of £106,000.[12] Eventually it earned £1,500,000 in the UK and £1,000,000 overseas, making a profit to Hammer of £532,000. Its box office gross was nearly 28 times its budget.[3][13]


Reviewing On the Buses in The Spectator, Christopher Hudson called it "a dullish adaption of the ITV series".[14]


  1. ^ a b "On The Buses". Art & Hue. 2021. Retrieved 26 June 2021.
  2. ^ Alexander Walker, National Heroes: British Cinema in the Seventies and Eighties, Harrap, 1985 p 114
  3. ^ a b Can film-makers Carry On? Bell, Brian. The Observer (1901– 2003) [London (UK)] 11 Aug 1974: 11.
  4. ^ Moody, Paul (2018). EMI Films and the Limits of British Cinema. Palgrave MacMillan. p. 96.
  5. ^ Marcus Hearn & Alan Barnes, The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films, Titan Books, 2007 p 149
  6. ^ On the Buses at IMDb
  7. ^ a b "Ronald Wolfe". The Times. 22 December 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2018. (subscription required)
  8. ^ On The Buses Location at IMDB. Retrieved Dec 2011
  9. ^ On the Busses fan club, locations Retrieved Dec 2011
  10. ^ a b Buses on screen On the Buses (1972, Reg Varney)
  11. ^ Peter Waymark. "Richard Burton top draw in British cinemas." Times [London, England] 30 Dec. 1971: 2. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
  12. ^ Moody, Paul (19 October 2018). EMI Films and the Limits of British Cinema. Springer. p. 83. ISBN 9783319948034.
  13. ^ Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio, Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography, McFarland, 1996 p. 343
  14. ^ Christopher Hudson, The Spectator. 20 August 1971, Page 19

External linksEdit