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  Penny Points to Paradise What The World Needs Is More Silly MenBuy this film here.
Year: 1951
Director: Tony Young
Stars: Harry Secombe, Alfred Marks, Peter Sellers, Paddie O'Neil, Spike Milligan, Bill Kerr, Freddie Frinton, Vicki Page, Joe Linnane, Sam Kydd
Genre: Comedy
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Harry Flakers (Harry Secombe) has recently won a fortune on the pools, but he isn't going to allow his newfound wealth to go to his head and goes on holiday to his usual haunt, a guest house in Brighton, with his best friend Spike Donnelly (Spike Milligan). They suffer a few minor setbacks on the journey there, as when Harry accidentally sticks his suitcase over Spike's head, or when they end up being taken to their destination in a taxi that is positively ancient and liable to break down at any minute, but surely there can't be anything else to put a spanner in the works of their trip?

For quite some time Penny Points to Paradise was believed lost, or at the very least out of circulation and likely to stay that way, which was a shame as it caught three of the groundbreaking Goons comedy team just before they shot to fame on the radio. Although this was not written by the stars, as John Osmonde carried those duties according to the credits, there are flashes of the lunacy that they brought to their more famous work, especially as the plot frequently halts to allow them to act out one of their stage routines, but it's interesting to spot the differences and similarities between the efforts here and what came along later.

Peter Sellers is there too, playing two roles although the Major gets far more screen time than the salesman, who is Canadian for no other reason than to show off Sellers' gift for accents. The Major seems a familiiar part for the actor to play, his accustomed version of the old duffer who amusingly makes mistakes, getting Harry and Spike mixed up or contributing the running gag (run into the ground, in fact) about thinking sponduliks is not slang for cash, but actually a serious ailment. It's no secret that Sellers thought this film was dreadful, but the passing of time has offered it a fresh intrigue.

Milligan especially doesn't quite seem himself, declining to speak in a funny voice and sounding far more sober and sensible than many will be used to; he's pretty much the straight man here, which doesn't really suit him. The storyline is perfunctory at best, concerned with counterfeiter Alfred Marks and his Australian co-conspirator Bill Kerr (from Hancock's Half Hour, also on the radio), both of whom are determined to get Harry's winnings away from him and cunningly replace them with their forged bank notes. As Harry doesn't trust banks and keeps his winnings in a suitcase, this will be easier than it seems.

To complicate matters, there are two women in Harry and Spike's lives, one of whom, Paddie O'Neil, is a gold digger out to marry the winner for his money; she gets to play out part of her impressionist act, just to add to the revue feel of a lot of this. In truth, although not the disaster Sellers believed, too much of the humour falls flat in obvious punchlines or over eager routines designed to pad this out to (barely) feature length. While there are still moments to have you laughing out loud, it's just that most of these don't occur during the setpieces such as the grand finale that sees a hectic chase around Brighton, ending up in a wax museum with predictable "dressing up to impersonate the dummies" results. Of additional interest is a rare film appearance by Freddie Frinton, of Continental New Year favourite Dinner for One fame, and the experience is painless at worst, a genuine item of comedy history at best. Music by Milligan and Jack Jordan.

[The BFI have re-released this film along with two other Sellers rarities on one Blu-ray or DVD.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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