Any PBS-sucking self-hating Americans out there who think that the British and their culture are somehow inherently more sophisticated than they are really do need their eyes opened to the real world out there.
A case in point is Who Done It?, a 1956 slapstick romp from Ealing Studios, starring that perennial stand-by of suave British wit, rubber-faced comedian Benny Hill, in what was his first -- and one of his few -- starring roles on the big screen.
Hill plays HUGO DILL, a recently fired London ice rink attendant and bumbling private eye wannabe who wins a fortune in a lottery and uses the money to start up a detective agency, much to the dismay of Scotland Yard. Hugo ends up investigating the disappearance of a foreign diplomat, which leads to the discovery of a conspiracy to assassinate British scientists and sell secrets to the enemy. Belinda Lee co-starred as Frankie Mayne, Dill's sexy blonde partner, who ends up solving the case!
But not, of course, before a suitable number of setpieces have been trotted out: Dill disguised as a "mad professor" demonstrating a "weather" machine, Dill in drag (of course), a frantic chase around a broadcasting convention at Earl's Court and the climactic stock car race. And not a bikini was harmed in the production of this film.
Nobody would ever claim this flick is subtle or sophisticated -- the outlandish plot is played out at warp speed and the acting is of the scenery-chewing, eyeball-rolling variety. Less than a year later, The Benny Hill Show, which would catapult Hill to eventual international success, made its debut on British television.
Still, if you like Benny Hill, it may be worth checking out. It's not The Maltese Falcon, but it is relatively good dumb fun. Just don't hold your breath waiting for it to show up on Masterpiece Theatre.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Special thanks to Anthony Durrant from Ottawa who (so far) has e-mailed me
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