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Films: P is for...

Punch and Judy Man, The

Hancock’s other film is a bit dark and not as much fun as The Rebel, we’re saying. As a seaside Punch and Judy man the lad ‘imself gets driven to distraction by the council and the holidaymakers and ends up at the Lord Mayor’s ball but things go wrong for him, natch. It was a complete disaster when it came out in the pictures – no doubt people wanted to see Cheam shenanigans – but far better thought of now. In fact, we’ve always contended that the scene in the ice cream parlour when everything he does is copied by the little boy was used by Spielberg in Jaws when Roy Scheider’s son does the same at the dinner table. But then of course big American film types don’t watch old British films, do they? At least not if Tom Hanks is to believed since he said that, prior to filming his contemporary shite remake of The Ladykillers he didn’t watch the original and has, in fact, never seen it. Our advise, tom; don’t watch it – it’ll just depress you. Anyway, here come Sylvia ‘Ice Cold’ Sims, Ronald ‘Wrath’ Fraser, John Le Mesurier, Hugh ‘black ones’ Lloyd, Mario ’10-4′ Fabrizi, and Hattie ‘Welcoming Land’ Jacques all featuring, among others.



  1. Sidney Balmoral James

    February 9, 2022 at 7:43 am

    An extraordinary film – without Galton and Simpson’s great writing we were left with 90 mins of a morose and unsympathetic man. Hancock’s drinking had destroyed his comic timing, and his facial mobility, and his misguided belief in aiming for a more naturalistic style of humour means a script almost entirely devoid of laughs, or even amusing scenes. What might have been needed at this stage in his career, was Hancock and Sid getting into absurd scrapes, rather than showing us a depressed alcoholic wander around Bognor Regis. There are very few scenes of Hancock doing Punch and Judy, chiefly because he had a morbid fear of the puppets, and was terrified of swallowing the swazzle. Is it out of order to observe that Sylvia Sims looks hot in this – Hancock tried it on with her during filming and you can see why!

    • THX 1139

      February 9, 2022 at 9:57 am

      Sylvia Sims was one of the most beautiful British film stars of her day, her and Janette Scott. Both still with us, I’m happy to say.

      I think the writer of this had a few choice words to say about Hancock too, none of them flattering. It’s closer to a Pinter play than Galton and Simpson.

  2. Richardpd

    February 9, 2022 at 10:09 pm

    I remember the biopic of Hancock recreated some scenes of this.

    It’s a shame Tony Hancock went from being one of the biggest names in British comedy to ending it all in just a few short years.

  3. Sidney Balmoral James

    February 9, 2022 at 11:10 pm

    Few comedians – or entertainers of any sort – have so publicly lost their abilities as Hancock did, although few suffered such a disastrous decline in the quality of their scripts (his own fault, as he rejected Galton and Simpson). The decline in the quality of his performance is very sudden as well, between the last BBC series, and the ATV series which followed. His performance is slow, he barely changes his facial expression, there is no subtlety in his delivery, and doesn’t seem to have enough energy to try to raise mediocre material. Some have charitably suggested it was the car accident he suffered after recording The Bowmans which may have caused a personality-changing injury to his brain, but I suspect it was just the drink, and whatever inner demons he had getting the better of him. The final Australian series is quite distressing to watch. His energies seem to be focused on remembering the lines and not fluffing them.

  4. Droogie

    February 10, 2022 at 1:10 am

    I began wondering how many actors had portrayed Tony Hancock on TV . There’s Alfred Molina and Ken Stott, and Martin Trenaman in the Michael Sheen Kenneth Williams Fantabulosa biopic. Kevin McNally also did a fine performance when they recreated the lost Hancock scripts. I’m also sure I remember seeing a BBC2 TV play of The Heathcoate Williams play Hancock’s Last Half Hour in the early 80’s, but can’t find any info on IMDB about it or who played Tony in this.

  5. Glenn Aylett

    February 10, 2022 at 6:31 pm

    So sad as Tony Hancock was one of the few comedians of his era whose shows didn’t date very badly and The Blood Donor is still hilarious today. Sadly Hancock decided he wanted to go into films and conquer Australia, but both moves ended in complete failure. Perhaps if he’d stayed on the BBC and continued as a big success on the small screen, then maybe Hancock’s career wouldn’t have gone into reverse.

  6. Richardpd

    February 10, 2022 at 10:43 pm

    Terry Nation was another scriptwriter who worked with Hancock, only writing for Doctor Who because he was short of work after he stopped working with Hancock.

    Tony still managed to get a decent, if small part in The Wrong Box.

    I had thought Alan Bates had played Hancock once, but can’t find anything on IMDb.

  7. Droogie

    February 11, 2022 at 12:54 pm

    I remember reading how Hancock accused Terry Nation of stealing the idea of the Daleks from him. Hancock was constantly trying to create an ambitious comedy that uncovered the meaning of life through the history of mankind. One sketch showed a post-apocalyptic world after a nuclear war where the surviving people had to travel around inside metal robotic armoured devices on wheels to avoid radiation poisoning. When Hancock first saw the Daleks, he was convinced Nation had ripped him off.

  8. Glenn Aylett

    February 11, 2022 at 2:05 pm

    @ Droogie, possibly Hancock’s paranoia was kicking in and he was falling out with everyone he was working with. It was a shame his career collapsed as he had at least two decades to stay at the top of his profession, but his drinking, paranoia and rows with Galton and Simpson made Hancock too hard to work with. However, he would be delighted to know that re runs of his 1961 series topped the ratings when repeated in the eighties.

  9. Droogie

    February 11, 2022 at 5:38 pm

    @Glenn Aylett It’s shocking and sad at how much Hancock aged in his final years due to alcohol and depression. It’s difficult to believe he was only 44 when he passed as he looks closer to 60.

  10. Glenn Aylett

    February 11, 2022 at 7:30 pm

    @ Droogie, he had everything in 1961, the top rated comedy show on television and massive critical acclaim, but somehow Hancock managed to blow everything by the mid sixties and became a shadow of himself, becoming totally unfunny and struggling with poor material. Yet the memories of his best work live on and from 1956 to 1961, Tony Hancock was light years ahead of his peers.

  11. Richardpd

    February 11, 2022 at 11:05 pm

    It’s often said that people who grew up before the NHS looked older faster, especially with two world wars and a depression to live though. Excessive drinking doesn’t help much either.

    I’ll be 44 next month and still look like I could be in my early 30s, and maybe late 20s if I lose my lockdown weight gain! Certainly last year some people though I was younger when I was doing a temporary job.

    Tony Hancock’s comedy seemed to bridge the gap between the immediate post war comedies and the 1960s generation of comedy.

    I remember my Dad was pleased to see some of Hancock’s Half Hour when some episodes were repeated in the 1980s, being the right age to see them when they were first shown.

    • Droogie

      February 13, 2022 at 12:00 pm

      @ Richardpd It is amazing what the pre WW2 working class people had to deal with regarding then incurable diseases and general malnutrition . I recently read Roger Daltrey’s autobiography, and he blames his diminutive height and short legs on a calcium deficiency from a lack of dairy products when he was growing up.

  12. Glenn Aylett

    February 12, 2022 at 11:57 am

    Hancock was probably the only television comedian and actor from this era who would be watchable today. Mike and Bernie Winters were even bigger, but their act was predictable and they fell out of fashion in the seventies, and others like Harry Worth would be unbearable to watch now.

    • THX 1139

      February 12, 2022 at 3:06 pm

      Strongly disagree – even on TV alone, there’s plenty of entertaining comedy and acting from the 1950s and 60s. Network put out Anthony Newley’s Gurney Slade on Blu-ray about a year ago, and that was terrific (one of David Bowie’s faves, too).

  13. Glenn Aylett

    February 12, 2022 at 5:13 pm

    @ THX 1139, I was thinking of some of Hancock’s contemporaries around 1960, who looked old and were unfunny then like Arthur Askey. Hancock’s Half Hour did pave the way for a more sophisticated and modern form of comedy that the BBC would profit from as the sixties went on.

  14. Richardpd

    February 12, 2022 at 10:04 pm

    Arthur Haynes was big around that time. My Dad was a fan & was sad when he died unexpectedly died in 1964.

  15. THX 1139

    February 12, 2022 at 11:59 pm

    There’s a bit of 1960s TV comedy from the UK out on DVD and Blu-ray. As well as Newley, I enjoyed the Bruce Forsyth shows Network released, and the BFI did a very nice release of the two pre-Python and Goodies shows Do Not Adjust Your Set and At Last the 1948 Show, which are all kinds of interesting. What’s left of the Cook and Moore BBC shows are a good night in, too.

    • Glenn Aylett

      February 13, 2022 at 10:51 am

      @ THX 1139, this sort of comedy came along after Hancock, or as his career was in its death throes. At the start of the sixties, you still had many pre war comedians around with dated routines and people like Morecambe and Wise, whose first venture into television in 1954 failed badly, were yet to really establish themselves. I think the satire boom that started in 1962, new, edgier sitcoms like Till Death Us Do Part and double acts like Cook and Moore changed things.

      • THX 1139

        February 13, 2022 at 8:17 pm

        There was room for all sorts of comedy on TV in the 50s and 60s, but it wasn’t to everyone’s taste. Arthur Askey was very successful as late as the 1970s, for example. Just because he appealed to an older audience didn’t mean he was rubbish, acts like Tommy Trinder or even Spike Milligan were from around Hancock’s generation and made regular appearances on TV. Maybe it was nostalgia, maybe it was because there wasn’t much else on, but they brought in the viewers.

        My dad still does Harry Worth impressions, incidentally!

  16. Sidney Balmoral James

    February 13, 2022 at 8:50 am

    For some reason, Monty Python became legendary, and very influential, in a way which At Last the 1948 Show, and Do Not Adjust Your Set didn’t – maybe to do with the superior production values of the former (and it was filmed in colour) – but the comic inventiveness is very much the same, as you’d expect, as virtually all the Pythons were involved (and Terry Gilliam was in LWT’s We Have Ways of Making You Laugh). I always found Gilliam’s cartoons the best bit of Monty Python!

  17. Richardpd

    February 13, 2022 at 1:22 pm

    Twice A Fortnight was another Proto-Python show, which is hardly remembered now, not helped by having most of it wiped.

    Almost the same it true for Broaden Your Mind, which had Tim & Graeme of The Goodies in it.

    It seemed a few late black & white shows were quickly dated by their lack of colour, and even some early colour programming suffered from the BBC having to re-use the tapes.

  18. Glenn Aylett

    February 13, 2022 at 4:23 pm

    The move from black and white to colour made programmes so much more lifelike. Steptoe and Son’s squalid house and Albert Steptoe’s scruffy, diseased appearance looked so much better in colour and added to the humour. Also black and white programmes generally look cheap and dated now, far more than colour, which might explain why repeats are rare now.

    • THX 1139

      February 13, 2022 at 8:19 pm

      I think black and white can be quite vivid, documentary-style, from the 20th Century. And show me the person who doesn’t like to settle down with an old black and white film on a Sunday afternoon, and I’ll show you someone who’s given up on life.

      • Glenn Aylett

        February 13, 2022 at 9:16 pm

        @ THX 1139, I think war films in black and white are always better to watch, particularly those based on true events, when there was only black and white.I doubt The Longest Day would have been as good to watch, particularly the landing scenes in Normandy, if it was in colour as it reflected the newsreels of the time.
        OTOH by the mid sixties, black and white had been largely abandoned for film making and some fantasy war film like Where Eagles Dare would have looked cheap if it was made in black and white, and needed to be done in colour to make the landscape and stunts look better.

        • THX 1139

          February 13, 2022 at 10:41 pm

          I’m trying to think what the last b&w film released as a matter of course was, not as in later, 1970s onwards, when it was an artistic choice. Something like In Cold Blood or Night of the Living Dead, perhaps? Or Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

          By the end of the 1960s war movies were often adventure epics, so needed the colour as part of the spectacle.

  19. Sidney Balmoral James

    February 13, 2022 at 11:43 pm

    Black and white had ceased to be routine for quality films by the late 60s; the critical year is probably 1968, as the 39th Academy Awards in April 1967 were the last to have specific Black and White categories, for Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design. Thereafter, apart from low budget films, any quality film in black and white was a stylistic rather than commercial choice, like The Last Picture Show or The Elephant Man, and it has been pretty sparingly used all things considered.

    • Droogie

      February 14, 2022 at 12:43 am

      A great example of a TV show being better in black & white instead of colour is The Twilight Zone versus The Night Gallery. Both had the brilliant Rod Serling at the helm, and so many of those half hour Twilight Zone episodes are classic mini movies in their own right. The Night Gallery in colour however is nowhere near as good and look like bad Amicus portmanteau films in comparison.

  20. Tom Ronson

    May 23, 2022 at 11:32 pm

    Comedy expert Graham McCann wrote a fascinating article last year about how the location shoot in Bognor Regis for an early episode of Steptoe and Son resulted in an unexpected meeting with Hancock, who was filming The Punch and Judy Man in the town at the time.

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