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This review is the double DVD which I rented which contains two films starring Tony Hancock, The Rebel and The Punch and Judy Man.
The first film, The Rebel, was released in 1961 and followed on from Hancock's success in his TV show Hancock's Half Hour which started in the 1950s. The film also had the same writers, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson.
The Rebel does feature some other actors and actresses who became well-known and had also appeared in Hancock's Half Hour. These include Liz Fraser, John le Mesurier (who became well known as Sergeant Wilson in Dad's Army in later years), Irene Handl and even a young Oliver Reed.
The film's basic plot is that Hancock plays a character who is bored of his dull working life, which is always the same, day in and day out. He dreams of following an artist's life and starts work in his flat in the suburbs, before setting off for France.
The start of the film is superb, with the first half an hour an absolute joy to watch. The scene in the flat with Irene Handl playing Hancock's land-lady and also the transportation of Hancock's statue to France are hilarious.
However, the film in my view starts to slow down after a while, stretching out the comedy value and in places being very unfunny. It felt to me that the writers were so used to producing 30 minute comedy programmes that they struggled to fill 90 minutes with consistent levels of comedy moments.
The film though went well at the cinemas and was certainly creditable. Although as I mentioned it dragged, I still enjoyed watching Hancock at work.
The second film on the DVD was The Punch and Judy Man. This was released two years later than The Rebel, in 1963, but this timeTony Hancock wrote the film, unhappy with the writing of the previous film by Galton and Simpson.
I found this film to be a very black comedy almost, very dark, very Hancock (who himself was to die in real life by suicide a few years later). I watched this film twice and felt that I could understand some of the nuances of Hancock's writing, but in other parts of the film, I felt quite lost at the direction Hancock was trying to take.
As a basic plot, Hancock plays the part of a Punch and Judy man at a seaside resort, and the film covers his life and how he copes. That is not far off the entire plot, but the film deals with class snobbery, and that to me seemed to be the most important premise of the film.
Overall, this film to me though is weak. The comedy moments are few and far between, some scenes are almost mystifying, although there was a scene with a Hancock and a boy at an ice cream parlour which showed to me Hancock's brilliant comedic ability.
As a comment about the DVD in general, unfortunately there were no extras included on the DVD, just the two films. Some sort of commentary would have been superb, just to add some more depth to the films, especially The Punch and Judy Man.
But I was glad that I watched these films, they aren't well heard of, but for any fan of Tony Hancock or mid 20th century British comedy, this DVD is well worth either buying or renting.
The DVD was available recently for 4.99 pounds from Amazon, but this appears now to be out of stock. However if you can find a copy of this DVD, definitely consider it.
The Rebel (1961) and The Punch and Judy Man (1963) are the only two feature films made expressly as star vehicles for the great television comic Tony Hancock. The Rebel is by far the more ambitious, being in colour with Parisian locations, a large cast, and not least a supporting role for international star George Sanders. The opening rebellion against office life surely inspired The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, while references follow to Look Back in Anger (1958) and Billy Wilder's The Apartment (1960) and Some Like It Hot (1959). Hancock goes to Paris to follow his artistic muse and as he rises through the art world his naivety is taken for genius, allowing for some very funny moments and spot-on satire, which are just as relevant today as 40 years ago. Filmed in black-and-white in Bognor Regis, The Punch and Judy Man is a more modest yet evocative portrait of life in a small coastal resort. Hancock is the titular beach entertainer who is happy to live from day to day with the affable companionship of John Le Mesurier and Hugh Lloyd. The problem is he's burdened with a socially ambitious wife, Sylvia Syms. Gentle humour comes from Hancock's frustrations as a proto-Basil Fawlty, and the film, packed with familiar British character actors, has an old-fashioned charm. It makes for an enjoyable supporting feature to The Rebel, which is undoubtedly a minor classic. On the DVD: Tony Hancock Double Feature presents both films at 4:3 ratio. The earlier film looks decidedly cropped in several scenes, though the latter survives the reformatting largely unscathed. The Rebel's colour is faded and the image grainy, while The Punch and Judy Man generally has a much stronger black and white image. Even so, there is some flickering and print damage. The music is distorted in The Rebel but the mono sound is fine during The Punch and Judy Man. There are no extras. --Gary S Dalkin