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Bruce Forsyth and Norman Wisdom - A Historic Comedy Hour,
This review is from: Sunday Night at the London Palladium - Volume One [DVD] (DVD)
Network's TV releases can be hit and miss for audio and video quality and this DVD, like others, does not contain remastered material. In particular, the Bruce Forsyth and Norman Wisdom two-hander is a videotaped version of the original recording. However, the good news is that it has very good quality picture and sound and only in one short segment two-thirds of the way through does the quality both of the videotape and the original film source dip for a short time. The sleeve says that the best quality source materials were used to make this set, and that's probably true.
This DVD contains some genuinely interesting and rare material. The undoubted highlight is the 1961 show performed during the equity strike by Bruce Forsyth and Norman Wisdom, who were not members of Equity. The pair perform the entire hour from start to finish, including the famous wallpaper sketch (often shown on TV as a standalone clip), a Beat the Clock special where Norman interrupts Bruce, a hilarious finale where Norman's attempts to sing 'When Irish Eyes Are Smiling' are frustrated by a phonecall for Bruce before he finally gets to deliver a serious full rendition of his own song 'Don't Laugh At Me 'Cause I'm A Fool', and a wild and wonderful comedy dance encore. They even improvise some fun on the famous revolving stage as the credits roll. It's a pleasure to watch them work: there's a lot of improvisation, and the two stars obviously worked terribly hard so that the show went on. It's hard to imagine many of the stars of today doing the same. This set is worth buying for their show alone - it's a good quality full-length copy of the performance and a fitting tribute to the late, great Norman Wisdom.
The rest of the shows contain less exciting material but enough to warrant their inclusion. The never-broadcast 1974 show is only really half a show, since the first half is cobbled together from other recordings - presumably they were trying to make up the original material to a full hour-long show - but it does feature a very funny topical comedy patter-poem from the late Bob Monkhouse which has never been broadcast on TV. And the 1973 show has two great turns from Larry Grayson in his heyday, including 'I've Had It Here' (at least that's the first line of the song) and a remarkable finale routine together with Rod Hull & Emu. You won't quite believe what Emu does to Larry's rear end in a family show!
The earliest shows in the set are hosted by Hughie Green and Tommy Trinder (one each). I notice that on the internet there are reports that on his appearance as guest-host Hughie Green was hit on the head when the 'Beat the Clock' clock fell on top of him at the end of that section of the show. What this set doesn't say (but probably should) is that this is most likely the reason that this surviving recording is under full length - it's the Beat the Clock segment that's missing, which is made obvious by Hughie's introduction to Mario Lanza. As reported on the net, he makes an unusually short introduction to the 'top of the bill' act, and he does indeed look glassy-eyed and nearly says "Saturday Night..." instead of "Sunday Night at the London Palladium"! However, this show is worth watching for Mario himself: he begins with the famous 'Because' before moving onto some serious opera and then closing with 'The Loveliest Night Of The Year'. He had performed at the Royal Variety Performance two days before recording this, and his voice is in tremendous form.
I don't think many (any?) more of the early shows survive, but it's interesting to note that while Bruce Forsyth is relatively well represented here there are none of the shows hosted by Norman Vaughan or Jimmy Tarbuck in the latter half of the original 1955-1967 run, despite the fact that a 1965 Tarbuck-hosted show, near enough complete, is available on Youtube, including a marvellous Pete & Dud finale from Peter Cook and Dudley Moore ending with their famous 'Goodbye' song. But, in fairness, Network don't advertise this as a "complete" set, rather "some of the best of what remains in the archives". And true enough - that's what they've given us, and it's one of the jewels in their output. If you reckon you're a fan of British post-war comedy, you should buy this just for Bruce and Norman's legendary comedy hour.
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Initial post: 25 Nov 2010 00:00:36 GMT
R. Lang says:
I have a 1963 Royal Variety Performance DVD, and it is awesome compared to the total rubbish on tv today.
Back then you had to have real talent.
The only bad thing about it is it has the clock counter visible throughout, but what a show!
I do hope everything from this golden era is released, as I know if aired on tv today, it would show up programme makers.
Would love to see the vintage Harry Corbett Sooty & Sweep, and The Good Old Days released too.
Still there's always Youtube!
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