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4.7 out of 5 stars
The Eric Sykes Collection [DVD] [2010]
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 29 August 2012
Being of an age where I have enjoyed years of Eric Sykes' early comedy on the television, I was very saddened at his recent passing. Some of his early TV work is still broadcast from time to time, and I wanted a more lasting memoriam to remember him. This small compendium of five of his short films, some Cannes winners, fits the bill admirably.

I saw "The Plank" upon its first release, but had to admit I couldn't remember it that well. Four of the five shorts on this disc are what have been called "silent" films, inasmuch as there is no dialogue to speak of, but they are not completely devoid of dialogue and which pops up in places. I think this adds to make them more accessible than if they had been genuinely silent films accompanied by a music track and sound effects.

These shorts use a cast of well-known TV comedy personalities of the era, the majority of whom pop up in all of the stories. It is a case of guessing who they are and putting a specific series to them. Some of them had starring roles in their own rights in famous TV series - Arthur Lowe and Richard Briers, to give just two examples. Perhaps the most surprising is an appearance by a young James Hunt as a truck driver, and Joanna Lumley! The familiarity of them all lends to a nice warm glow of nostalgia.

The longest story, "If you go down into the woods today", is the first on the disc and is the one which incorporates normal dialogue. This involves Eric leading a troupe of Wolf Cubs on a camping expedition. The storyline is somewhat convoluted but is very entertaining.

The next one up "Rhubard, Rhubard" is, for me, the least successful of the five here, with some of the visual comedy being of a lower standard, but is nevertheless entertaining.

Then comes "The Plank" but this is not the original release, which lasts for over 50 minutes, but a shorter re-make for Thames Television. Surprisingly, I found this shorter re-make actually works better than the original. (I have the original, too.) I believe this is down to the storyline being more compact, and I suspect Eric Sykes saw an opportunity to cut down on the length of some of the overly long scenes of the original which, in hindsight, are worked too long. Certainly, watching the original after viewing this shortened version, it did seem to dwell a little too long with some scenes, almost to the point of wearing out their welcome. All the running gags are here in the revision, and I honestly believe they are better in their presentation. The ending has been changed but it works equally as well.

The fourth short, "Mr. H is late" deals with a subject in a way that some may find disrespectful, a funeral. However, this is a riotous account of the journey of the coffin to the church, arriving late of course, hence the title. And it is in no way disrespectful.

Many who have moved house will empathise with a lot of the final short, "It's your move". It is an exaggeration of what most must fear when moving house at the hands of the removal men. I doubt that all of the misfortunes that beset Richard Briers and Sylvia Syms when moving into their house will have happened to one couple, but I would guess most will have experienced at least one!

All in all, this is a delightful anthology of the art of Eric Sykes as a film writer and director, and I am sure it will delight those who enjoyed his somewhat homespun and low-key television humour. The quality of the print transfers is good.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
A great little DVD featuring some great old comedy classics from Eric Sykes.
I wasn't very impressed with the 'talkie' If You Go Down In The Woods Today, but Rhubarb, Rhubarb, The Plank, Mr H Is Late and It s Your Move are superb pieces of comedy.
Watching them again after all these years is a real trip down memory lane, and if your my age you'll be watching these mini films saying continously 'good grief, that's...'.
Lots of rewatch value.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This DVD represents excellent value for money with no less than 5 programmes. These are my thoughts on each of them:

If You Go Down In The Woods Today - this is a 'talkie', the longest (1hr 15m) and the weakest of the set. It is an implausible plot, over long, but with some nice chuckles, a few nice touches and one or two laugh-out-loud moments, especially the bed collapsing! ***/5

Rhubarb, Rhubarb - is delightful, very silly and great fun. ****/5

The Plank - despite this not being the original version, it is still a classic - absolutely hilarious with so many moments which will make you laugh out loud. Sheer brilliance! *****/5

Mr H Is Late - as per the Plank - very, very funny - lots of famous faces. Slightly contrived, but a work of a genius! *****/5

It's Your Move - this is very good, but falls short of the Plank and Mr H Is Late. The humour creaks a bit but it is still good fun.

The whole package makes for a very entertaining night in and I will certainly watch them all again.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 6 November 2010
Eric Sykes was always a great student of comedy, and as a writer he appreciated the beauty of movement as well as the value of words. These films showcase his art as a visual comedian, with plenty of fellow enthusiasts to cause carefully choreographed chaos and provoke plenty of laughter. I prefer the earlier version of 'The Plank' but the one here, from the 1970s, is still hilarious, and the other films are full of wonderful little touches. Good clean fun, and timeless comedy.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on 17 September 2010
Some of these titles have been out on DVD/video but never on one compilation. This is super, although these films are around thirty years old, the comedy is classic and timeless. A good belly laugh for all. The re-make of the plank is as good as the first version. All we need now is Sykes television show on the BBC to be released in its entirety. A masterclass in comedy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 19 December 2011
Different people will always have various opinions on what is great humour; however, these are my thoughts on this DVD.

'If You go Down in the Woods Today' isn't exactly full of side splitting laughter but I found it to be a good enjoyable traditional cops and robbers tale with a few unexpected twists and more than sufficient humour.

For me, 'Rhubarb, Rhubarb' was the weakest item and although it has it's funny moments I found it a bit predictable.

When purchasing this DVD, I assumed 'The Plank' was the all time classic which also starred Tommy Cooper and was a little disappointed with this Arthur Lowe alternative. Although it still has plenty of laughs and I suppose if I hadn't previously seen the alternative version I would have rated this one more highly.

'Mr H is Late' & 'It's Your Move' are absolute classics of rather simple but extremely funny visual humour and contain so many of the great comic characters of the past that just trying to put names to faces was entertaining in itself.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 19 December 2010
a collection of eric sykes itv shows ,including a remake of the plank with arthur lowe ,do yourself a favour if you like eric ,buy it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 April 2012
Classic collection of vintage British humour with so many faces long forgotten and rediscovered with affection from my childhood and teens. A highly enjoyable nostalgic trip into silly, simple but enduring humour, presently sadly lacking in so many ways. Collection includes the classic of all 'The Plank'.The Eric Sykes Collection [DVD] The power of it all is the fact that there is practically no dialogue.
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I was and still am a great fan of Eric Sykes (1923 - 2012) both as a comedy performer and as a comedy script writer. I will always remember him with great fondness for his 'Sykes and a ...' series in which he and his screen sister, played by Hattie Jacques, found themselves involved in some quite funny antics. I can think of only 2 comedy series in which the main stars kept the birth names in the series: Eric & Hat/Hattie. The other being: Terry & June, from the comedy series of the same name. Other partnerships include Eric Morecambe & Ernie Wise and Tommy Cannon & Bobby Ball who often retained their own christian names in their comedy sketches and films. Eric & Hattie were the first and I will greatly miss them.

Most will remember Eric Sykes as a comedy performer but he was also a prolific comedy writer for a great many big stars of the 40s thru' 90s. This DVD embraces a selection of his best known work in both roles. My only regret is that it does not include a few more examples. Sykes' work is so extensive that it could easily embrace an entire DVD series in its own right, Maybe one day this will happen. Excellent DVD and now very cheap to buy.
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on 1 April 2013
This collection has five of Eric Sykes' quirky little films. "If You Go Down in the Woods Today" is the odd one out; it has ordinary speech (apart from some garbage by Sykes). The rest only have noises, although there is one brief sentence of speech in "The Plank", while all speech in "Rhubarb, Rhubarb" is (you've guessed it) "Rhubarb, rhubarb."
"If you go Down in the Woods Today" has a strange storyline, a scoutmaster and cubs wandering around in some woods, where particularly nasty things are occurring. The other four films, the real gems, are purely situations. Three of the situations involve moving objects: furniture, a coffin, a plank. Even the fourth involves moving a ball; a game of golf. If you want a list of all the great English comedians of the 50s and 60s, just watch the credits on these films.
For those who enjoy these "silent" films, I would also recommend Ronnie Barker's "Futtock's End" and "A Home of your Own".
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