Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs
The Renown Pictures Comedy Collection Volume 2 (Renown). Comedy is a funny thing and it is amazing how unfunny it can be only a few years later. In this collection you can renew acquaintance with Richard Hearne, Elsie and Doris Waters, Sid James, Brian Rix, Peter Sellers, etc, etc in eight films from the 1940’s, 50’s and early 60’s.
The Richard Hearne’s comedies, The Butler’s Dilemma and Tons of Trouble, featuring his most famous character, the eccentric Mr Pastry, are a series of music hall sketches shot on a very low cardboard budget. He works in the Chaplin slapstick + pathos tradition. His co-stars are two boilers.
Very few people who saw Donald Sinden early on in his film career, a matinee idol and expert in light comedy, would have thought he would have gone on to be a stalwart of the Royal Shakespeare Company playing Malvolio, Benedict and King Lear.
Elsie and Doris Waters were the most popular female double act in the music hall in the 1930’s. Their two films, Gert and Daisy Clean Up and Gert and Daisy’s Weekend are wartime propaganda and interesting historically. They were commissioned by the government to raise morale and to persuade the public to help the evacuees, run food shelters and participate in the Salvage Campaign and give up their newspapers, railings, metal objects and rubbish, even their love letters (every bit counts) to help the war effort.
The funniest performance is by Harry Herbert as a gloomy publican nicknamed Old Cheerful.
Gold (Lionsgate). A gold prospector (Matthew McConaughey) and an archeologist (Edgar Ramirez) join forces to find gold in Indonesia and make a fortune. “I don’t care about money,” says the prospector, “I care about gold.” Wall Street is taken for a ride to the tune of 17 billion dollars.
Is the McConaughey character a fool or a mastermind? Is he conned or in collusion? Is the Ramirez character a fraud or his best friend? McConaughey is totally unrecognizable. The film doesn’t quite work.