Sunday, March 15, 2009

Terry-Thomas returns!

It's been just over a year since I recommended the wonderful British comedy Make Mine Mink, starring Terry-Thomas. TCM is airing another of his comedies, Too Many Crooks, at 8:45 AM ET on March 16.

In this movie, Terry-Thomas plays a wealthy businessman who's worried about losing his money. There's a gang of crooks out to swindle money from him, and if they can get a large sum of money, so much the better. However, this being a comedy, the crooks are just about as incompetent as the fur thieves in the aforementioned Make Mine Mink. Their plan is to kidnap Terry-Thomas' daughter. Being clueless, however, they actually end up kidnapping his wife instead. (She's played by Brenda de Banzie; you might recognize her from the 1950s version of Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much, where she plays the female kidnapper.) They place a large ransom on the wife, but don't bank on what happens next: Terry-Thomas is actually pleased to see the back of his wife, as she's been nagging him to death and being otherwise all-around unpleasant. This is a shock to the kidnappers, but even more so to the wife, who had no idea how her husband felt about her. So, she gets an idea. She's going to get revenge on her, and use the gang as a means of getting her revenge. After all, they have a motive for punishing Terry-Thomas, too. And so we end up with a fairly wild comedy.

Too Many Crooks is great fun, although it's not quite as good as Make Mine Mink. It's typical of the sort of comedy that British cinema was putting out at the time, but Hollywood really wasn't. Terry-Thomas and Brenda de Banzie are both quite good, as are the supporting cast. Having said that, it is reminiscent of some later movies that Hollywood made, such as Anthony Quinn in The Happening, where he plays a character very similar to the Brenda de Banzie character; or even to an extent something like Ruthless People. But the Brits got there first with Too Many Crooks, and we should be thankful for that. Unfortunately, it only seems to be available in a Region 2 DVD, which means many North American DVD players won't play it.

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