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BENNY HILL: THE NAUGHTY YEARS
Set 4

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars: 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: 500 Minutes, three discs individually packaged
Release Date: July 26, 2005

"Hello!  Tonight well be going to the Moscow film studios where already this year they have shot four feature films, six documentaries, and eight directors..."

Set **

In my other reviews of Benny Hill's shows, I took the position that the attacks on his objectification of women were unfounded because many of the stars of his shows were excellent female comic actors, and he also often featured talented female guest singers and groups.  The men were almost always the objects of ridicule, not the women.

However, in this fourth set of shows, that seems to have changed and may have provided some fuel to the feminist fire, which was raging anew in the late 70's and early 80's when these shows aired.   The sketches overall are not as funny and seem to feature Benny and few other regulars.  This is a shame because he had so many excellent supporting cast members but they faded somewhat into the background and the Angels came to the forefront. 

The particular number which probably upset everyone was "Hill's Angels Grand Gala," which features some gorgeous women in the smallest bikinis allowed on any television show, but all they do is dance and jiggle.  There are a few small sketches, but they are nothing new.  And the second half of the gala features "Boogie Wonderland" with women in bad blue wigs just moving around. So not only did Benny succumb to the disco craze, but could not even make a good sketch out of such a comical dance craze.   I was very, very disappointed in this sketch, which grabs your attention with pure titillation and then loses it just as fast out of boredom.  

A sketch called "First Impressions" is classic Hill with visitors from Ireland, whose accents are so heavy that no one can understand each other.  Soon after this, we see Benny as a waiter in "Hotel Sordide," which is funny enough, but haven't we seen all of this before, and with more feeling?  Then we have to sit through a horrible British band's version of Orange Blossom Special.   The phrase "jump the shark" comes to mind.

The booklet accompanying the set reveals that the "angels" were actually started on another show, and Hill adopted the idea.  When American television deemed the galas too risqué and began removing them from broadcasts, Hill worked them into the sketches more so that they could not be edited out.  The booklet also has biographies of many of the best known angels. 

While at the end of 1981 he had the most popular show on British television and he was named "The Funniest Man of Television," I can't help but notice that this season was the first one on the down side of Benny's comedy hill. 

Video ***

Probably due to the advancement of technology at the time, the picture is more up to modern standards.  Clearly the source material is of higher quality which makes for better DVDs every time.

Audio **1/2

I can still barely understand Benny sometimes due to less than stellar mixing (and perhaps my poor grasp of accents) and since the picture is better, I hoped the sound would be too.  As the season progresses, the music in particular sounds better, but overall the sound quality is still not near American standards of the time.

Features **

The "I Was a Hill's Angel" featurette is interesting because the women all seemed to have enjoyed the show very much and speak about Benny with nothing but respect and affection.   A fourth Cheeky Challenge Trivia Quiz is also included. 

Summary:

Probably a good buy for serious Hill fans, but these are not his best years. They don't make you appreciate Benny for anything other than spotting pretty women with minimal comic skills.

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