Tuesday, April 21, 2020

HUE & CRY highlights Film Movements's quartet of classic British comedies starring Alastair Sim

Neither as well-known nor as well-loved perhaps as Alec Guinness, British comedian Alastair Sim was nonetheless a major force in British comedy from the 1940s through the 1960s. Now four of his best-known comedies are getting a Blu-ray debut in excellent transfers (without, unfortunately, SDH English subitles) in a four-disc package titled ALASTAIR SIM'S SCHOOL FOR LAUGHTER from Film Movement.

Film buiffs of a certain age will easily recall the original version of The Belles of St. Trinian's and School for Scoundrels. Lesser known but just as worthy are the other two "classics" included: Laughter in Paradise and the film under consideration here, HUE AND CRY.

Helmed by one of Britain's undersung comedic directors, Charles Crichton (at right), and written by the wonderful T.E.B. Clarke, Hue and Cry tells the tale of a gang of thugs whose clever leader uses a popular comic strip to alert his band to their next moves.

Another gang -- of British school-kids (below) -- led by an even more clever fellow gets on to the bad guys and determines to stop them, which leads to all sorts of fun and games and even, at the finale, more genuine suspense than you might have imagined possible in this kind of movie.

The ubiquitous Mr. Sim (shown at center on poster, top) plays the very funny, sunny, and near-camp writer of the comic book's story, who must be cajoled and then finally threatened into helping the kids. He is delightful, as usual, but it is Mr. Crichton's wonderful use of the so-recently bombed-out Britain (Hue and Cry was filmed only two years after the end of World War II) that both startles and rather amazes.

He and writer Clarke know how to plot and pace, so their movie bubbles along with charm and wit, from the funny and original opening credits right through the amusing and thrilling finish. The rest of the cast, of kids and polished British actors, are as delightful as is Mr. Sim. There's not a false step in the entire enterprise.

With this month's release of these classic Sim comedies, along with last month's offering of fine British war films -- both partnered by Film Movement and Studio Canal -- viewers are getting a very nice taste of British classics along with some wonderful accompanying Bonus Features. More please! (But consider including the SDH subtitles next time, OK?)

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