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  Let's Go Crazy Ready Pre-GoonBuy this film here.
Year: 1951
Director: Alan Cullimore
Stars: Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Wallas Eaton, Tommy Manley, Florence Austin, Freddie Mirfield, Keith Warwick, Jean Cavall, Pat Kaye
Genre: Comedy, Music
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Here is a selection of variety acts for your pleasure, beginning with Freddie Mirfield and his Garbagemen, a novelty dance band who make their way anarchically through a tune as all the while the harpist fires missiles from her strings and the pianist gets his face caught in his keys. In between the musical bits and pieces, there are comedy sketches courtesy of Mr Peter Sellers and Mr Spike Millligan, with the former demonstrating his mastery of character and disguise in what would be his first ever onscreen appearance in a film.

Not that this is a very long film, or even a particularly substantial one, but for showing two of the soon-to-be Goons in a half-hour short of their own devising it is historically important if nothing else. Sadly, there isn't much else, as the humour is very much typical of the variety circuit of the day, just as much as the musical performers are, and while it's amusing enough on a low level, low expectations kind of way it's not something you can imagine watching more than once, and only then out of curiosity as Sellers appears for about half of it, and Milligan even less.

Still, when they do appear it's interesting to see the beginnings of the character comedy that Sellers made his stock in trade, and the nonsense humour that Milligan embraced. All Spike really gets to do in the service of that is shave a man with his cutlery while he's at the restaurant table, but his comic partner in crime is offered - or was offered by himself, as he and Milligan scripted their sketches - far more opportunity to show off his range. He appears as Groucho Marx (the voice isn't great, but the mannerisms are there) and in drag as a patron, and gets to exercise his accents as the Italian head waiter who despairs of having to serve boiled beef and carrots.

Legend has it that Let's Go Crazy (was Prince perhaps inspired by this? Maybe not) came into being because the first feature this team made - Penny Points to Paradise - was rustled up in so brief a time that there was a week of studio access left over, so this short was the result. It undoubtedly wouldn't have been given a second glance were it not for the Goon relevance, as the supporting acts, while perfectly competent, are largely unremarkable. Pleasant crooners mostly, although the finale does involve a bizarrely violent double act of a man and a woman who dance their way through acrobatic physical brutality as if it was perfectly reasonable that you could go to a nightclub in 1951 and enjoy this served up as entertainment. Nothing Sellers and Milligan do here is as way out as that.

[This is included on the BFI's DVD and Blu-ray of Penny Points to Paradise, along with another Sellers-connected rarity.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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