Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 28th March, 2015
This isn’t an Ealing Studios comedy, though you’d be forgiven for making that assumption. Its cast of stock English eccentrics may well have been moonlighting from one of Mr Balcon’s movies - perhaps they bicycled between Ealing and Elstree or got Sid James to drive them in his Carry On cab. In common with a number of films of the era it does have a slightly serious undercurrent - how far would we go if placed under enough pressure? Do we really know ourselves? Would we be better people if forced to see ourselves as others see us?
There are some superb performances - particularly from Fay Compton and Alastair Sim - and there are others where the actors are having such fun that it’s infectious. A young John Laurie working out his grumpy Scot routine in preparation for Dad’s Army, Joyce Grenfell way over the top but delightful and George Cole in training for his St Trinians Flash Harry role. It’s strange that this film has rather fallen out of the spotlight when comedy classics of the 1950s are discussed because there is more of a plot, more substance and less pratfalls than many more celebrated films.
Rome-born director Mario Zampi (1903-1963) moved to Britain in 1923, starting out as an actor before turning editor in 1930 and producer in 1937, when he founded Two Cities Films with fellow countryman Filippo Del Giudice. As director, he specialised in comedy, Laughter in Paradise being followed by Top Secret (1952), Happy Ever After (1954), The Naked Truth (1957) and Too Many Crooks (1959), all of which display a surprisingly acute grasp of the British sense of humour.