For this week’s home viewing recommendations, Paul MacDonald-Taylor (Head of Film + Visual Art) explores British comedy films available on the BBC iPlayer.
This will be the BBC’s 98th year as the public broadcaster. It’s just three years older than my Nana, who watches Alexander Armstrong on Pointless everyday (I believe the show is secondary to Mr. Armstrong in my Nana’s affections). The BBC iPlayer has a great range of classic TV and films, I’ve been watching two TV programmes from the ‘80s and ‘90s recently on there: Architecture at the Crossroads and Building Sights.
There are some wonderful films on the BBC iPlayer at the moment too. Five true classics of golden age British comedy have aired over the past week. School for Scoundrels (which we screened at the Inverness Film Festival in 2015) might just be my favourite British comedy. It has Terry-Thomas (the suave cad with the greatest comic timing imaginable) and Alistair Sim (in great form) as a couple of swindlers taking advantage of Ian Carmichael’s niceness.
School For Scoundrels (1960)
Alec Guinness is wonderful as the hapless inventor in The Man in the White Suit, which sees the owners of fabric mills and the mill workers trying to stop him getting his indestructible fabric formula out into the world, it’s more of a satire on capitalism than an out and out comedy but Guinness and Joan Greenwood (who has the greatest voice in British cinema) are both superb. Alec Guinness also stars in The Lavender Hill Mob (BBC Two, Fri 10 Apr, 4pm), the story of a mild-mannered bank clerk who masterminds the theft of gold bullion that he plans to get out of the country as Eiffel Tower souvenirs. Comic twists and turns inevitably occur.
The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)
Possibly the most iconic Scottish set comedy (aside from the films of Bill Forsyth) is Whisky Galore! (also starring Joan Greenwood), the tale of a small island in the Hebrides where a ship full of whisky runs aground late on a Saturday night. As the islanders get ready to ‘rescue’ the cargo it runs over into Sunday morning and they have to spend the day at church salivating over what lies just out of reach. I don’t think the Sabbath would stop the contents being ‘liberated’ in this day and age. It has one of my favourite lines in cinema, when Dr Maclaren says of the meek school teacher George Campbell ‘It’s a well-known fact that some men were born two drinks below par’.
The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953)
In the first couple of months that I worked at Eden Court, we screened The Titfield Thunderbolt. I was 22 and a film lover but still had a lot of gaps in my knowledge, British cinema being one. I’ll admit I wasn’t looking forward to having to run through the print of a film about a group of villagers fighting to preserve their railway and a bus company who were out to stop them. 80 minutes later I was won over and cheering them on, it’s strange looking back at the film and all the railway lines that we lost with the invention of the motorway. In this age of mass transit we could really do with them all back up and running again.
I know what I’ll be watching this weekend, and I can promise you I’ll be laughing loudly!
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