It may be Oscar time, but if you’re really interested in a few classic British comedy films, head over to the local video store (Premiere Video on Mockingbird Lane in Dallas immediately comes to mind as being the place to get these) and spend some quality screen time before Oscar Sunday.
Bedazzled (1979) with Dudley Moore and Peter Cook
Brilliantly directed by Stanley Donen, Bedazzled is the story of Stanley (Dudley Moore), a short order cook, infatuated with Margaret (Eleanor Bron), the statuesque waitress who works at Whimpy Burger with him. Despondent, he prepares to end it all when he meets George Spiggott (Peter Cook), AKA the devil. Selling his soul for 7 wishes, Stanley tries to make Margaret his own first as an intellectual, then as a rock star, then as a wealthy industrialist. Along the way, Stanley also meets the seven deadly sins who try and advise him, one being Raquel Welch as, surprise, surprise, Lust.
The Bed Sitting Room (1969) with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Spike Milligan
This bizarre, but interesting British comedy/sci-fi film by Richard Lester also features Arthur Lowe (Dad’s Army), Frank Thornton (Are You Being Served, Last of the Summer Wine) and Marty Feldman. It’s set in a post-nuclear-holocaust England, where a handful of bizarre characters struggle on with their lives in the ruins, amongst endless heaps of ash, piles of broken crockery and brick, muddy plains, and heaps of dentures and old boots.
Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, Or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes (1965) starring Terry-Thomas, Stuart Whitman and Sarah Miles
Pretty simple, really. A British Newspaper offers a prize for the winner of a cross channel air race which brings flyers from all over the world. There are many sub-plots as the flyers jockey for position and the affections of various women. Sounds easy, but remember, it’s the early-20th century. Watch closely so you recognize Benny Hill and Jeremy Lloyd, the co-writer/co-creator of Are You Being Served and ‘Allo ‘Allo in the cast. Remember, Those magnificent men in their flying machines, they go up diddley up-up, they go down diddley down-down!
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) starring Alec Guinness and Dennis Price
Louis Manzzini (Dennis Price), a distant poor relative of the Duke of D’Ascoyne plots to inherit the title by murdering the eight other heirs (Alec Guinness x eight) who stand ahead of him in the line of succession. Manzzini determines to murder them, and, actually, kills six of them in inventive, blackly humorous, ways. Two others (the Admiral and the banker) die without his assistance, and Louis becomes the tenth Duke of Chalfont. Happy ending, right? Not so fast. There’s this little matter of two women; Sibella (Joan Greenwood), his down-to-earth paramour, who is the wife of his childhood rival Lionel (John Penrose), and the refined Edith D’Ascoyne (Valerie Hobson), who is the widow of his second victim. Confused yet?