THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN. (1960) DIRECTED BY STUART BURGE. WRITTEN BY JAMES BRIDIE (PLAY) AND REUBEN SHIP (SCRIPT).
STARRING NORMAN WISDOM, SUSANNAH YORK, ALFRED MARKS AND ANDREW CRUIKSHANK.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
Aw, there's nothing like a nice bit of vintage British comedy to brighten up a dull day in May. After a couple of weeks of sunshine, which come to think of it was probably all the summer we're gonna get this year, the more familiar gloom is back.
THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN was just the job to sprinkle a little magic over my otherwise 'meh' weekend. Do you know the film? It's an absolute gem of a classic movie. Let's put on our reviewers' hats, shall we, and take a closer look.
The star is Norman Wisdom, the actor whom the late great Charlie Chaplin once described as his 'favourite clown.' Norman Wisdom lived one hell of a long life (1915-2010). It's so weird to think that he was born during the First World War and lived to see the complicated age of mobile phones, social media and day trips to the moon. Well, nearly, haha.
THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN, the name taken from the popular nursery rhyme, tells the story of Davy Cooper, an explosives expert who's really down-on-his-luck when the film starts. A chance meeting with an old army buddy from the war ends with Davy working for a gang of criminals as their safe-cracker.
The wonderfully-choreographed hospital scenes are a joy to witness. Into the hospital they come dressed as businessmen, then on with the gowns and masks and hey presto! A group of highly suspect surgeons are about to embark on the world's dodgiest operation. When Davy emerges from that hole to find the six burly coppers staring sternly down at him, I squirted tea out of my nose. From laughing, I mean, obviously. It's not my party trick or anything...
Crime doesn't pay, of course, and a stint in't'clink is the natural consequence of Davy's poor judgement. I love the scenes where he's residing at Her Majesty's pleasure, letting himself in and out of his cell at leisure because the cell hasn't been made that can hold him, what with his being such a Harry Houdini and all.
Then there's his obvious love for the prison garden which he's tenderly cultivated over the years, and the fact that he doesn't want to leave the nick because he's so nice and comfy and well-set-up there. 'The judge gave me seven years and I'm entitled to every single one of 'em!' Or words to that effect. But all good things come to an end and Davy gets the bum's rush from the prison two years early for being a model prisoner.
Determined to go straight from now on, Davy heads to Sleath-on-Sea where he's employed by the small town's richest businessmen, Mr. McKillup. But McKillup is as crooked as they come, much like the man from the title. When Davy discovers that the despicable tycoon is planning to take the impoverished townspeople for every penny of their life-savings, he's determined to stop the mean old miser in his tracks. Even if he has to go back to his old criminal ways to get the job done...
I was reading online that this film was withdrawn shortly after its release because the US Army disapproved of Norman Wisdom's hilarious portrayal of General Perkins, a phoney American Army guy who falsely requisitions British land for the US Air Force.
Now, I thought that his performance as the General was one of the funniest things about the film (next to the scene in which two guys take a shower but only one of them knows about it!) but what do I know? I'm just a humble movie reviewer with an acute sense of what's funny and what's not...!
Anyway, this superb British vintage comedy, so long hidden from the public eye, is very much back in circulation now thanks to NETWORK DISTRIBUTING and the good people at BLUE DOLPHIN PR & MARKETING. (Do you know that they actually torture me if I don't compliment them? Ha ha, I'm only joking, of course. Yes, joking...)
That's right, THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN is out now for the first time on DVD after an HD restoration and, given the length of time it's been unavailable, I'd snap it up if I were you guys. It's genuinely funny and it has such an authentic vintage feel to it so that it's a bit like getting a hug from an old movie, if you know what I mean. Good vintage British films are worth their weight in gold when you can find them. Don't let this one slip through your fingers.
NETWORK is home of 'The British Film' collection; the ultimate destination for vintage British films.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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