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  No Limit Speed King
Year: 1935
Director: Monty Banks
Stars: George Formby, Florence Desmond, Howard Douglas, Beatrix Fielden-Kaye, Peter Gawthorne, Alf Goddard, Florence Gregson, Jack Hobbs, Eve Lister, Edward Rigby, Evelyn Roberts, Ernest Sefton, Arthur Young
Genre: Musical, Comedy, ActionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Wigan mechanic George Shuttleworth (George Formby) is in his garden shed but he's not attending to his chickens, he's clearing them out of the way so he can take out his prized possession, a motorbike he has built himself from various parts. He knocks over a box or two while doing this, leading his mother (Florence Gregson) to stick her head out of the window and demand to know what he's doing, warning him not to disturb the neighbours. Nevertheless, when a group of children appear and ask George to demonstrate his machine he all too happy to oblige, but after starting it up and climbing aboard he accidentally lets it fly and crashes through the fence and into next door's garden. From these lowly beginnings, George hopes to rise to the giddy heights of...

...the Isle of Man TT Races, of course. This is possibly Formby's best remembered film, especially among British motorcycle enthusiasts as it provides footage of many vintage vehicles zooming about the island, although you have to wait until the final ten minutes or so to see them in all their glory. Talking of vintage vehicles, No Limit was one of many nineteen-thirties and -forties showcases for the talents of Formby, who was hugely popular in the music halls of the day making him a natural choice for the big screen. Not every such performer really achieved a successful transition to the movies, but George's simple charm, with his little ukelele in his hand for the all-important songs, was a big hit with audiences.

The typical Formby story involves him playing an awkward chap, the imaginatively named George, a lot like, say, Sid James nearly always playing characters called Sid I suppose, with a spot of romance to provide a young lady for him to impress and cheer him on by the end. The lady in question this time is Florrie, played by famed impressionist of her day Florence Desmond (although she sticks to one voice here), who works in the motorcycle company George wants to join up with to represent them at the TT Races. Florrie is amused by his letters (and photograph), but the company turns him down - is he to be deterred? Of course not, and he travels to the Isle of Man on money "borrowed" from his cantankerous grandfather (Edward Rigby).

On board the ferry, he meets Florrie and saves her life by pushing her out of the way of a swinging crate, although she loses her hat in the process. Thankful, not least due to George's efforts to save said hat that saw him end up in the water, Florrie starts to help him out in any way she can which is just as well considering the close to insurmountable odds that he meets. He loses his money, then when he reaches his boarding house finds out that he has to stay a fortnight to take part in the postponed races - and the landlady demands rent be paid every week. Although he plans to win the prize at the contest, Formby in a typical underdog role not only loses his nerve, but is forced to dress up in blackface and play his ukelele for money, not a plot development you'd get in a comedy these days. A harrowing drama, maybe. The race itself might have been an inspiration to Death Race 2000 what with riders smashing through walls, hurtling over cliffs and exploding in flames, but certainly provides a spirited finale, and you'll never guess who wins. Music by Ord Hamilton and his 20th Century Orchestra.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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