Oh, Mr. Porter!

The station master of the S.R.N.I. (Southern Railway of Northern Ireland) at Buggleskelly (his résumé is of great interest), whose excursion train miraculously disappears.

Halliwell’s Film Guide points out that this is a variant of The Ghost Train (dir. Walter Forde), and lavishes praise also from Peter Barnes and Basil Wright.

A “dirty little halt” in advance of Dearden’s The Smallest Show on Earth and “all the other bally places” (it “smells like a backyard dustbin”), and though Moore Marriott drinks his beer like Richardson’s Tom Jones, “you’re wasting your time.”

Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent picks up the windmill hideout, Laurel and Hardy are cited (The Live Ghost, dir. Charles Rogers), the finale of Kramer’s It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World is anticipated, and the pointwork of Frankenheimer’s The Train.

“Amusing, if over-long” (Variety).

Geoff Andrew (Time Out) says, “might well convert unbelievers.”


Alf’s Button Afloat

A rabble of showbiz shnorrers (The Crazy Gang) join the Naval Marines kerwite by h’error, but one of them finds the genie of Aladdin’s lamp, which has been converted into one of his tunic buttons during a scrap drive, “any old iron” is the cry.

“Not too tight under the arches,” says Alf getting his new uniform. Beer and gelt, what more do they want? To help a pair of lovebirds, she the daring daughter of their ship’s captain, he a lieutenant of Marines. Dancing girls, that’s the other thing.

“All concerned are on top form,” says Halliwell’s Film Guide. Film4 says, “how queer.”


The Frozen Limits

The Opera House, Red Gulch, Yukon Territory.

Underneath it is a gold mine, all above is ghost town, collapsing Sheriff’s Office, imaginary spectators and bus, the lot.

The Six Wonder Boys, a fairground attraction bested by the Hulah Hulah, strike out for the Gold Rush.

The Crazy Gang, with Bernard Lee as Bill McGrew, and Moore Marriott as the somnambulist prospector.

The boys put on Sir Marmalade’s Hair, “a 3 Act Drama” nearly finished.


O-Kay for Sound

Last ditch for Goldberger Studios, The Crazy Gang (as Time Out Film Guide says, “street buskers”).

“City types”, they are.

And there you have it, salvation.


Where’s that fire?

The three-man Bishops Wallop fire brigade, a one-horse affair.

They can’t find a fire in the dark with a torch, and can’t put it out to save their jobs.

The captain nevertheless invents a formula for firefighting foam, the x is serendipitously beer.

It comes in handy when a phony film crew hires their engine for a historical shoot at the Tower of London, it’s a bullion gang moving on to the Crown Jewels with a ringer for the Tower engine.

Practically a Three Stooges short built up in monstrous scenes like the raising of the fire pole on a busy street and in an invalid’s bedroom, the discovery of the foam, and naturally the grand finale drenched in the stuff.


Band Waggon

The true story of Askey’s radio programme involves Axis spies and saboteurs and a haunted castle and television broadcasting and the staid indifference of the BBC to talent in many forms including his for three months on the roof and in a bed-sit cum rehearsal studio not in use by anyone at the time or nearly, and of course Jack Hylton’s hideaway roadhouse called Jack in the Box with his band inside and Patricia Kirkwood and all, Sir Angus calls the tune though in the end and it all went very happily into Comfort’s Make Mine a Million.


Let George Do It!

In the bleeding blackout on a train platform a Dinkie Doo bound for Blackpool is sent on a mission to Norway for British Intelligence unawares.

One travels to Bergen by Marmoset, returns by Macaulay, save that the Dinkie Doo is on a U-boat out to sink her.

Mendez the bandleader of Bergen sends code out in his orchestrations, our man tumbles to this thanks to his contact on the reception desk at the Majestic.

Hitchcockisms abound and are fairly trumped by sheer nerve, even Waltzes from Vienna at the English Bakery.

Scopolamined he dreams the “Pearly Gates... British Passports Only”, travels by barrage balloon (cp. Gasbags) to a Hitler rally and pummels the bleeder, SS men congratulate each other and him.

A masterpiece, in a word.



The Crazy Gang travel by fish & chips saloon (not half) and barrage balloon to the Siegfried Line. They try to join up, thinking it’s the Maginot Line, and are disabused of this notion in a concentration camp full of Hitler’s doubles on strike.

They take the job, “out of the frying pan and into the Führer.”

The secret weapon they unearth is the alien vessel in Baker’s Quatermass and the Pit, a burrowing machine, they briefly wear Nazi sniper “tree” disguises menaced by a woodsman and a dog, in between they avoid an assassination plot designed to establish peace and spring the real Hitler on the Allies.

“Often inventive”, says Halliwell. Crowther of the New York Times never saw it, or he wouldn’t have been as appalled as he was by Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be.


Turned Out Nice Again

The masterpiece of Lancashire business savvy and London savoir faire coming down to the finer points of ladies’ underwear, a great savings in wool (cf. the Yorkshiremen of Annakin’s Value for Money).

Altman completes the equation in Ready-to-Wear as a mere formality, Varnel adds the element of skimping, modernity is a mother.

A pure marvel, down in Halliwell’s Film Guide as “tolerable star comedy”, Formby “less gormless” by the BFI’s sights (Vic Pratt).


I Thank You

When you wake up between two lovely girls on the platform of a tube station in the Blitz, your first concern is to put on a jolly good show, what?

That’s what Arthur Askey does in the last reel at the Aldwych tube shelter, with a troupe of troupers.

The rest is too sublime for words, and that includes the cook next door with her rather Germanic drop-in boy friend.

The most amazing thing, and that’s saying quite a lot, is the resemblance in the long reaches of Varnel’s film deep amongst the vaudeville legends to Wyler’s Mrs. Miniver, which followed in due course obligingly, with interest.


King Arthur Was a Gentleman

“I should say he was a twirp.”

Arthur King, Whitehall mapmaker of sorts, is “de-reserved” following a contretemps with his A.T.S. sweetheart and joins the Fusiliers driving a Bren carrier.

An intricate and complicated device, with Gwen and Lance in the Vale of Avalon at Tourney Camp, learning to drive the thing.

A “phonus-balonus” Excalibur surfaces in spadework, the “jellyfish” King buys it for thirty bob and becomes a hero.

Val Guest’s lyrics, Askey, Bacon, Train, Dall, action in North Africa, the lot.

Halliwell was notably confused.


Bell-Bottom George

The Navy won’t have him, a Nazi air raid and a boxer who borrows his clothes for a beer party land him in the street wearing a uniform, and that’s the first half.

Nazi spies in Porthampton operate from a taxidermist’s shop, he twigs finally and sinks their craft, now he’s bona fide Navy, and that’s the other (a Wren).

The furious complications of plot are many and fine and come down to a goldfish gone to sea when firemen misdirect the water hose during that same air raid, a remarkable piece of work.