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  Night We Got the Bird, The Funnier Than Ricky Gervais
Year: 1961
Director: Darcy Conyers
Stars: Brian Rix, Dora Bryan, Ronald Shiner, Leo Franklyn, Irene Handl, Liz Fraser, John Slater, Reginald Beckwith, Terry Scott, Vincent Harding, Denis Shaw, Ray Cooney, Gerald Cross, Vera Pearce, Grace Denbigh Russell, John Le Mesurier, Kynaston Reeves
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: It's another busy morning in the household of Cecil Gibson (Ronald Shiner), not that he's there himself, he is just walking up to the front door trying to stay as quiet as possible, meeting the local bobby on the beat (Terry Scott) along the way who suggests he take his shoes off. Meanwhile, inside the house his wife Julie (Dora Bryan) is getting ready for the day, noting her husband's absence and when he does wander in, the playing cards which fall out of his jacket which indicate where he's been all night. Yes, Cecil is a bit of a rogue with his antiques business which occasionally sell the genuine article but more often than not fob off facsimiles rustled up in the back room...

Although they are good enough to fool expert Bertie Skidmore, who was played by that legendary man of farce Brian Rix, here appearing in one of three movies this year, all of which ran along similar lines of attempting to translate his huge popularity on the stage to the big screen. They were by no means sophisticated, but they did raise a laugh with undemanding audiences of their day, and thanks to the generous amount of goodwill Rix created by dint of his tireless work for charity continue to prompt giggles among his admirers. Indeed, since he retired from acting, with television proving more of a success than the movies, it was the charity which defined him.

Rix was accompanied here by a selection of old hands and new faces who would become old hands, with his flighty sister-in-law played by Liz Fraser and his mother-in-law by Irene Handl - but wait, weren't they playing Cecil's relations? Yes they were, and in a turn of events which brought new meaning to the word "contrived" it is Bertie who ends up marrying his widow when he expires soon after he hires him. The reasons for this are complicated, shall we say, but they involve a local gangster who Cecil was doing up a four-poster bed for, except the ne'erdowell gave him a copy and sold the authentic one himself at a tidy profit. One thing leads to another and soon Bertie has killed his boss.

Accidentally, that was, crashing their out of control van; Bertie survives and marries Julie, which might have been the end of it except we were only twenty minutes in and we jump ahead to the point where they're just about to go on honeymoon to Weston-super-Mare. Oddly, one of their wedding gifts is a parrot nobody seems to know the origin of, and more alarming for Bertie is the way it talks to him, making it plain that it is not any old parrot, but the avian reincarnation of Cecil, now determined to jealously make the hapless bloke's life a misery. Quite how much you chortled at this depended very much on your tolerance for watching Rix get into increasingly preposterous situations, although to his credit he and his writers, including Ray Cooney, displayed some degree of invention.

Or at least, invention within the parameters of a traditional British, whoops there go my trousers vicar farce. What that had in store was a seeming checklist of touchstones to rely on, from references to a "beautiful French bust" to a mirror made out of a lavatory seat ("rosy cheeks" are mentioned in conjunction to that, natch), a brief shot of a nudist camp, chamber pots, characters battering down doors in a fit of misunderstandings, Bertie ending up in the wrong bedrooms, others doing the same, and so forth, whipping up a veritable whirlwind of mistaken identities, double entendres, single entendres and an overall getting of the wrong end of the stick. Of course there had to be a sequence set in a courtroom where Bertie's antics have inadvertantly had him arrested, and the sheer stupidity of the narrative took some beating. Was it still funny if you were exasperated with the characters? Probably not, but if you appreciated nobody involved with this had any other ambition than to make you laugh, no small feat, then it was amusing enough. Music by Tommy Watt.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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