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  Punch and Judy Man, The That's The Way To Do It
Year: 1963
Director: Jeremy Summers
Stars: Tony Hancock, Sylvia Syms, Ronald Fraser, Barbara Murray, John Le Mesurier, Hugh Lloyd, Mario Fabrizi, Brian Bedford, Norman Bird, Kevin Brennan, Eddie Byrne, Carole Ann Ford, Gerald Harper, Walter Hudd, Hattie Jacques, Michael Ripper, Peter Vaughan
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Another day by the sea in the small town of Piltdown, and Punch and Judy man Wally Pinner (Tony Hancock) is preparing for the day ahead. As he dresses, he listens to the radio where Housewives Choice has just ended and the daily reading from the Bible has begun, leaving him bemused at the parable of the fig tree and its shade, but when the pop music starts blaring straight afterwards, Wally can't switch off the broadcast quick enough. Then it's through to the kitchen where his wife Delia (Sylvia Syms) has prepared breakfast, which they eat in siience until she mentions an article in the newspaper about the upcoming anniversary festivities...

The second film starring Tony Hancock will always have a depressive association, because it marked his decline in quality, a state of affairs which would lead to his alcoholism taking hold and eventual suicide. You could argue that with his downbeat comic persona the way he ended up is never far from the viewer's mind when watching his performances, but at least when he was delivering lines from Ray Galton and Alan Simpson they were morbidly funny and in an odd way cheered you up to see the lad 'imself bumble through the hopeless situations the writing team dreamt up for him. Here, it was all his own work so he had no one to blame but himself for its lack of success.

Well, he did have a co-writer in Phillip Oakes, but the despairing nature of Hancock's ideas seemed to have rubbed off on him as the whole mood of the piece is one of a bloke turning up at a party and being such a wet blanket that all the good cheer ends up overwhelmed by his dejection. There is a happy ending, but the overall impression of a seaside town with little to celebrate but going ahead anyway is not a especially hilarious one, though it could have given rise to some fine character humour. As it is, the most vivid character in the film is the location, which seems to echo Wally's outlook as determinedly unpretentious in the face of the council's equal determination to treat the place like Monte Carlo.

Actually, the film was shot in Bognor Regis, and does capture something of the down at heel appeal of such resorts for the kind of writer or performer who goes there to feel melancholy rather than buoyed up as they donned a knotted handkerchief and went for a paddle in the sea. There's nothing of the saucy postcard about Piltdown - it's apparently named after a famed archaeological fraud, for a start - as it falls prey to the bad weather and holidaymakers who are there because they can't afford anything better and given the choice would have headed abroad to more reliable sunshine. So if nothing else, Hancock nailed his tone, as it is all very evocative of a time and place.

It's simply not very funny, and that's a problem for a comedy. There are scenes which exhibit an exacting style of gags, as when Wally treats his only fan, a young boy, to an ice cream sundae, and Wally has one as well to spite the man behind the counter, but that makes you feel hungry rather than making you chuckle. Elsewhere there are a few smart lines, some nice observations, the pleasure of seeing Wally getting ahead in his losing battle for oneupmanship, but overall it's a comedy made by someone whose sense of humour was fast flying out of the window. Syms seems a too-glamorous choice for the wife, although she acquits herself as the social climber destined never to reach the top rungs of that ladder, nor even the middle ones, and stalwarts such as John Le Mesurier provide solid support, yet there's little to gladden the heart as it trudges to its conclusion. To its credit, it does look better than it did when it was shot down in flames back in 1963, though that could be for its historical value. Music by Don Banks and Derek Scott.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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