This 87 minute feature film should not be confused by American viewers with any of the similarly named posthumous compilations of Benny Hill's work. Rather, it was assembled and shot in 1974, after Hill's first big success on British television during the early part of the decade, and is made up of material dating from Hill's earliest breakthrough in the United States. It originated with Thames Television, whence his subsequent programs did, but this is all earlier material and probably not as familiar to the American viewers who picked up on him at the outset of the 1980's -- within that time frame, it may well be the "best" of Benny Hill, or it may not; it's difficult to say since relatively little of the material covered in the years represented by this "movie" was widely seen over here. For serious fans, be warned that there are no "Hill's Angels" (they came along later) and that there isn't even any semi-nudity to speak of. (Indeed, that was probably, in a way, what was saddest about Hill's career during the decade -- he broke through with his "naughty" brand of humor, only to see popular culture transform itself so that by the end of the decade women were reveal far more of themselves on the dance floor than his leading ladies showed off in his sketches; the ante was upped and he obliged by pushing the envelope ever further in the jokes and costumes on his show). For all of that, despite the fact that this is the "classic" period of Hill's late career, the material doesn't work terribly well in this format. The pacing of Hill's comedy, a mix of fairly elaborate sketch comedy and rapid-fire black-outs lasting only a few seconds, was ideally suited to the 30-minute television time-slot. Assembled together to a total of three times that length, they become wearying very quickly -- even the black-outs, funny as they are, tend to suffer in this format because of the running time, which can tire out the viewer. The materials are also frequently of poor quality; the movie was assembled from television footage, and the quality of that material was probably not as important as simply getting the film edited and released -- at this late date, neither Anchor Bay Entertainment nor the owners of the film were in a financial or technical position to go back and re-compile the film from proper master materials. Not that this is too much of a problem; one hardly needs a major BFI restoration to appreciate the humor inherent in Benny Hill stumbling around a gymnasium or playing field, parodying television commercials (all of them familiar to US viewers), or leering at the cleavage of a well-endowed actress, and that's pretty much what Benny Hill is about. In the areas that the producers could control, the disc is nicely done -- each major sketch and black-out is given a chapter marker, and the disc opens automatically to a simple and easy to use menu (accompanied by Hill's signature tune, "Yakety Sax"). And speaking of the music, the sound -- in Dolby digital mono -- is also surprisingly good and loud. Like the original television source material, the transfer is presented in full-frame 1.33-to-1 aspect ratio.
Side #1 -- 1. Start Program/Main Titles [:39] 2. Lower Tidmarsh Hospital [8:01] 3. "Throw Open" [:13] 4. The Grass Is Greener [5:31] 5. Claude and Fifi [4:18] 6. "But Soft..." [:25] 7. The Party [:26] 8. Balmolive [:40] 9. Spuddo [:34] 10. Benovite [:22] 11. Stück Margarine [:55] 12. Thames Television [2:59] 13. The Boutique [2:58] 14. After Dinner [2:10] 15. The Messenger [4:40] 16. My Garden of Love [2:31] 17. "Goodnight" [:15] 18. Film School [3:17] 19. Passengers of Love [5:12] 20. A Poem [4:29] 21. Scuttle's Keep Fit Brigade [4:27] 22. Words of Comfort [:54] 23. Ye Olde Wishing Well [:51] 24. Tupper-Time [8:45] 25. Blackmoor [:15] 26. "A Head?" [:20] 27. Maurice Dribble [5:46] 28. "Sorry, John" [1:01] 29. Adjudicating Panel [1:06] 30. "What's This Thing Called?" [:28] 31. Customs [6:46] 32. A Variety Program [3:13] 33. End Credits [1:52]