The Arthur Askey Collection (DVD Review – I Thank You, Back Room Boy and More)

Distributor: ITV DVD
Certificate: PG | Region: 2 | 6 disc set

Extras: No

Arthur Askey, Richard Murdoch, Moore Marriott, Graham Moffatt,

One of the all time greats of the thirties and forties, who along with the likes of George Formby and Will Hay scored more than a few successes on the big screen. ITV dvD have put together a brilliant box set highlighting six of the best of them.

Born in Liverpool in 1900 the diminutive of stature (5 foot 3) but energetic of nature Askey had risen to prominence on the radio show Band Waggon, the first ever regular comedy, variety series and also the first type of this show to feature a resident comic (Askey), he was teamed with semi straight man Richard “Stinker” Murdoch and one of the regular segments on Band Waggon saw the two of them actually living on top of Broadcasting House, given that the radio show was a huge success, a natural progression was a film version which appeared in 1939, of interest not just for helping preserve the radio show but also for an early look at TV goings on at the BBC as the pair here are running a pirate TV station, it’s also very funny.

I THANK YOU made in 1941 is our personal pick of the bunch, featuring besides Askey and Murdoch the likes of Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt (the pair were former Will Hay regulars who stayed with Gainsborough – who Askey was also contracted to – when Hay moved to Ealing Studios). Also appearing was the brilliant Kathleen Harrison and the plot of I Thank You saw a group of actors posing as servants to try and get backing for a stage production they want to put on.

BACK ROOM BOY (1942) is another classic that pretty much steals wholesale the plot from the Ghost Train, Arthur, this time out minus Murdoch, is a meteorologist who is sent to a remote light house off the coast of Orkney and is soon getting mixed up with spies. Marriott and Moffatt again feature as does a mostly scantily clad Googie Withers and a whole troupe of music hall girls. Its great stuff and hugely entertaining.

KING ARTHUR WAS A GENTLEMAN (1942) whilst still very much a comedy tries to introduce a spot of pathos into the mix, Askey is a soldier who thinks he has discovered King Arthurs sword which gives him heroic qualities.

BEES IN PARADISE (1943) reunites most of the cast from King Arthur (Anne Shelton, Jack Train etc) and ramps up the comedy factor with a saucy plot that sees a quartet of airmen crash land on an island in the South Seas ruled by women.

Last but not least is MISS LONDON LTD (1943) which again features the same cast from the previous two movies and once again, this being wartime, sees Arthur playing a soldier and getting mixed up with the goings on at an escort agency.

This is a wonderful collection that transports us back to a more innocent and infinitely more fun period for movies. Any fan of the golden age of British cinema and any fan of classic comedy would do well to acquaint themselves with this handsomely packaged box set.

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