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DVD Review: Tony Hancock Movie Collection

Hancock_film1_1 The Rebel (1961)
The Punch And Judy Man (1963)

Growing up, Tony Hancock was just a name to me - he died before I was born and his TV shows from the 60s were rarely seen on TV. In fact, my first encounter with his work was through an afternoon TV showing of one of his films, The Rebel, which has been reissued on DVD along with Hancock's other movie appearance - The Punch And Judy Man - as The Tony Hancock Collection. And the set is well worth picking up.

The main reason for purchasing this DVD set is definitely The Rebel from 1961. Written by Galton and Simpson (his TV writing team and later, the people behind Steptoe and Son), it's a satire on both the art world and the emerging beatniks.  Hancock plays Anthony Hancock, a middle-aged man stuck in a dead-end office job, but with aspirations to make his mark in the art world. After being disciplined at work for excessive doodling and getting an ultimatum about his art clutter off the landlady (played by Irene Handl), he decides to pack up his easel and head to Paris for the sake of his art.

Hancock_film2 Arriving in Paris, he meets Paul, a talented artist who offers Anthony a room and a place to work. By a stroke of luck, Anthony's infantile paintings grab the attention of the beatnik community and hip Parisian society - forcing his more talented roommate to give up, ditch his work and head back to London. When an art agent calls round, he spots Paul's work as genius. Anthony is then faced with the dilemma of living a lie behind Paul's work or coming clean over ownership.

The film is a gem - a great plot, sharp script, well-acted and a top-notch supporting cast - look closely and you'll spot Oliver Reed, Nanette Newman, Jean Marsh and cult favourite Sandor Eles in bit parts as artists and beatniks. But above all, it's the ideal vehicle for Hancock to ham it up. This movie is worth the price of this set alone.

Which is just as well, because The Punch And Judy Man, whilst not being a bad film, has nowhere near the same impact. This film was co-written by Hancock himself and although it was made two years later than The Rebel (in 1963), seems to be from at least 10 years previous.

Hancock this time plays Wally Pinner, the local punch and judy man in the mythical seaside town of Piltdown. While he's happy on the seafront doing his show and antagonising the mayor and his cronies, his wife is keen to social climb - offering Wally's services for the Mayor's gala evening against his will, setitng up the film's climax. It's a pleasant-enough film, slow-paced, at times sentimental, sometimes very funny - but overall, the story doesn't really last the pace, the characters lack depth and the finale is a bit of a mess. But it's still the kind of film you'd probably enjoy watching on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

You can pick this set up for around £12, so even if you treat the second film like an extra, you're still getting value for money here. For me, The Rebel is a must-own for fans of 60s British cinema, throw in another Hancock movie and a fine DVD commentary from Galton and Simpson (with Paul Merton) and it's worth every penny.

Extras on the DVD

Audio commentary on The Rebel by Paul Merton, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson

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