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DVD Review

DVD cover

School for Scoundrels (1959)


Starring: Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas, Janette Scott and Alastair Sim
Distributor: StudioCanal
Certificate: U
Release Date: 05 October 2015

Based on the Stephen Potter ‘One Upmanship and ‘Lifemanship’ books and featuring a stellar cast of much loved comedy actors of the era, including Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas, Janette Scott, Alastair Sim and Dennis Price, the tale of hapless Henry Palfrey’s attempts to turn his luck around by enrolling in Lifeman College is available for a whole new generation of comedy fans to appreciate looking better than ever...

School for Scoundrels (1959) is directed by Robert Hamer (Kind Hearts and Coronets) and written by Patricia Moyes and Hal. E Chester.

The movie opens with Henry Palfrey (Ian Carmichael) enrolling at the wacky College of Lifemanship, which is run by Dr. Potter (Alastair Sim). The college is designed to turn losers into winner; by carefully studying the lecturers tactics, each graduate will emerge into the real world ready to dominate any social situation. Palfrey explains that he wants to enrol in order to win the heart of a girl he's recently met.

We then flashback to the chance meeting Palfrey had with April Smith (Janette Scott). She is everything Palrey has ever dreamed of in a woman... but unfortunately he has a rival for her attention. Raymond Delauney (Terry-Thomas) is more worldly wise, successful and smooth than Palfrey could ever hope to be. When Delauney seems to be winning Smith's heart, Palfrey knows he must take drastic measures.

Palfrey passes his classes with flying colours, learning how to turn any situation to his advantage. His graduation, carefully watched over by Potter, will be complete when he wins the girl.

This is a comedy which, considering its age, is still remarkably fresh today as it would have been in 1959. Obviously there are elements that seems the norm today that would have been frowned upon back in 1959; like a single woman being alone in a young gentlemen's flat without a chaperone, but otherwise a lot of the narrative still stands up for a modern audience.

It's not difficult to see why Palfrey is so eager to win the heard of Smith. Scott is a beautiful woman and lights up the scenes she is in - the camera loves her.

The movie also has several cameo appearances from some of the UK's top comedians of the era. Peter Jones, John Le Mesurier, Irene Handl and Hattie Jacques all turn in wonderful performances.

The movie looks beautiful, thanks to the digitally restoration. For extras we have Interview with Peter Bradshaw (13 min, 37 sec interview with The Guardian's Bradshaw); Interview with Chris Potter (11 min, 44 sec interview with the grandson of Stephen Potter); Graham McCann on Terry-Thomas (11 min, 01 sec interview with the author of Terry-Thomas's biography); Stills Gallery (behind the scenes images); and Trailer (2 min, 28 sec).


Darren Rea

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