'Hancock's Half-Hour Volume One' from BBC Worldwide contains the earliest surviving shows: one from the 2nd Series, five from the 3rd Series - all transmitted in 1957. The high quality of the Galton and Simpson scripts, and the lead performances, goes without saying. Hancock and sidekick Sid James already have the partnership basics established, although at this stage James' character is framed as genial crook-cum-con man, and the more matey tempo of later shows has yet to evolve.
Superb support comes from Hancock's 'repertory company' - Dick Emery, John Le Mesurier, Johnny Vyvyan, and the wonderfully indignant John Vere. Hancock's radio co-star Kenneth Williams also appears in one show - the only surviving TV incarnation of his famous 'Snide' character.
The quality of the recordings is, unsurprisingly, iffy by modern standards, but we are lucky to see anything at all. All these shows were originally performed as broadcast live; there are a few fluffs, but these only add to the charm of the proceedings.
Included on this DVD is a 'Special' - 'Hancock's Forty-Three Minutes' - a Christmas variety programme hosted by Hancock and Sid James, and guest-starring John Gregson. This is sneakily billed as a DVD extra, but it is actually the last outing of the 3rd Series. Indeed, the main carp about this DVD is the dearth of genuine extras. For instance, BBC-TV produced a profile of Hancock in 1985 that would have served as a perfect introduction here.
The episode 'There's An Airfield at the Bottom of My Garden' is notorious because of prop failures that left Hancock struggling to hold the plot and action together. This is explained in Roger Wilmut's 'Hancock Companion' book, so many Hancock fans will know about it; but to anyone unaware of what's happening, it just looks like rather erratic acting. So background information to this episode would have been welcomed by Hancock anoraks - or should that be 'astrakhans'? Nonetheless, this DVD is a must for students of classic British comedy - buy, buy, buy!
Galton & Simpson along with Hancock and the rest of the cast produced the mould for many other series to come and possibly still influences comedy today (Beryl Virtue, Exec Producer of Coupling & many others, worked with G & S in the 50s & 60s).
The original radio series got away from the compulsory music/variety mix that comedy had to fit in with until HHH came along - this show concentrated on characters, plots and intelligent scripts and when this was transferred to TV, there was no looking back.
I find this the only comedy TV or radio show produced in the 50s that is still genuinely funny and not just from a nostalgic ot historical view (like the Goons or Take it From Here). The comedy has not dated in the least.
This product's forum
Active discussions in related forums
Search Customer Discussions