BENNY HILL: THE NAUGHTY EARLY YEARS
Review by Mark Wiechman
Benny Hill, Henry McGee, Rita Webb, Jack Wright, Jenny Lee-Wright
Audio: Dolby 2.0
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio: A & E
Features: See Review
Length: 550 Minutes, three discs individually packaged
Release Date: August 24, 2004
say, is this Platt's Bottom?”
it's not, it's mine!”
where do I find Platt's Bottom?”
you don't start from there!”
which direction is it?”
not very bright, are you?”
but we ain't lost!”
and vaudeville may have vanished long ago, but Benny Hill managed to keep the
style going well into the digital age. His
shows were his life. This
three-disc set of eleven episodes, originally shown in Britain beginning in
November of 1969 (though Hill had been on television since the 1950’s) are the
first time these episodes have been seen in their entirety in the USA.
This set also features three “lost” episodes, which had to be shot in
B&W due to a technician’s strike. They
have not been shown since their original broadcast all those years ago.
was the first real TV comedy star in Britain, being Red Skelton and Milton Berle
in one. He had a four-way split
screen for his send-up of Juke Box Jury.
His contemporaries found him to be more bold like American comics, and
his subtleties and attention to detail as well as his suggestive looks came
across so well on TV, whereas he was a failure as a solo performer in theatre.
Like the Beatles, he worked in Germany after WWII and was actually
in some ways is an enigma because he wrote constantly and of course was
surrounded by beautiful women, but in real life he was very sensitive and not a
playboy at all. Fluent in four
languages, he traveled alone throughout Europe, looking for new ideas and
material. He was very generous with
his money to friends but he rarely spent much on himself. He refused to work with one large financial firm just because
they frequently went to the races on Saturday afternoon, which may have made
them seem untrustworthy.
funniest sequence in the first season is probably the newlywed couple in their
honeymoon suite in Germany who suddenly find themselves on opposite sides of the
US-Soviet border. A guard is
actually posted in their room who refuses to let them cross the line even though
it goes right down the middle of their room, and they cannot consummate their
marriage. The guard spews typical
Soviet propaganda, and then when he finally leaves, the bride refuses to sleep
with her “imperialist pig” husband. Suddenly
an attractive Russian female guard comes in and switches the flags due to a
compass mistake, and Benny again finds himself with a pretty girl who accepts
him. His new wife can’t switch
clear for its age, few artifacts but some poor lighting and of course the
limitations of British TV production and the tape production are mostly to
blame. I can’t tell if anything was cleaned up or remastered, since it is not
bad looking, but just not as sharp as most American programs made in the same
Dolby Stereo, and sometimes poorly recorded by modern standards. There is no
close-caption as the Amazon page says there is. This is a shame since the myriad
of British accents used is difficult for a “colonist” like me to understand.
I can’t tell if it was cleaned up at all for DVD release. More than likely
this was merely a reflection of normal TV audio at the time and can’t be
have yet to come close to passing the Benny Hill Cheeky Challenge Trivia Quiz
(#1 is featured on this disc), but it was fun to play. The other feature is the
excellent The World’s Favorite Clown, which
is probably the first thing any viewer should watch.
television shows were such smashes fresh out of the gate, but Benny
Hill certainly was, and has aged gracefully.