This is one of the many classic British comedies of the 1950s, and like the others, it’s full of good clean fun that doesn’t rely on profanity obtain laughs. It would probably make an ideal training video for today’s aspiring comedians. The story begins when Henry Augustus Russell, an obsessive practical joker, croaks with laughter from his latest prank. In his will Henry leaves £50k to each of his four surviving relatives, which in today’s value would make them millionaires. There is a snag; however; as to receive the monies, each must complete a set task that will take of them completely out of their comfort zones.
One of the four is Denison Russell, a rule-following retired army officer who, under various aliases, secretly writes sleazy crime novels. He is given the task of committing a crime and going to jail for four weeks, which is somewhat awkward as he is soon to marry his straight-laced fiancé of ten years. Then there’s the high and mighty Agnes Russell whose dragon scorn for the lowly has no equal. She will have to work as a domestic for a month without leaving or being fired. Next up is Simon Russell, a womaniser and downright scrounging scoundrel who is tasked to marry the next woman he speaks to. Then last, but not least is the fainthearted Herbert Russell, a bank clerk who’s frightened of his own shadow. He will have to hold up his formidable manager with a toy gun in order to receive his inheritance. Considering the personas of these characters, the tasks seem beyond their reach but with £50k at stake, they have to try and try they do.
As with most movies, there is a twist in the tail, which has all the potential beneficiaries in stitches. They being played by Alastair Sim, Fay Compton, Guy Middleton and George Cole the movie became a popular favourite with audiences. There’s also a cameo role for the versatile Welsh actor Hugh Griffith who went on to win an Oscar for his part in Ben-Hur, and to top it off we get to see a very young inexperienced Audrey Hepburn who two years later won the best actress award at the Oscars. I recently watched a digitally re-mastered copy of this movie and was most impressed, as the picture quality is a vast improvement over the original release. As we’ve come to expect from Studiocanal remasters, no expense has been spared to give this charming comedy a new lease on life. May it be discovered for generations to come.
Laughter in Paradise is released on DVD & Blu-ray on June 29th, pre-order your copy today.