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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Laughter in Paradise (1951)
(2020 Restoration)


Starring: Alastair Sim, Fay Compton, George Cole and Guy Middleton
Distributor: StudioCanal

Certificate: U
Release Date: 29 June 2020

StudioCanal release a brand-new restoration of the classic British comedy Laughter in Paradise. Starring Alastair Sim, directed by Mario Zampi and written by Jack Davies and Michael Pertwee, this entertaining black comedy was originally released in 1951. Supporting Sim are a veritable who’s who of the era including George Cole, Fay Compton, Guy Middleton and Hugh Griffith. The film also features an extremely early appearance on film from a young Audrey Hepburn...

When lifelong practical joker Henry Russell dies he leaves £50,000 to each of his four beneficiaries. All are family members whom he disliked when he was alive, and as one last defiant act from beyond the grave, he has ensured that he can still prank them. Each of his relatives, in order to receive their money, must perform an act uniquely chosen for them. Fail and they get nothing. One final clause states that they must not divulge any of this to anyone who was not at the reading of the will, and if any of them contests the will then none of them get anything.

Alastair Sim's character, Deniston Russell, a retired army officer has a dark secret. He writes cheap, sleazy crime novels under a string of pseudonyms. To earn his £50,000 he must go to jail, for a crime he has committed, for exactly 28 days.

Fay Compton plays Agnes Russell, a snob of a woman who is constantly rude and verbally abusive to her hapless housekeeper. In order for Agnes to share in Russell's estate, she must find employment as a housekeeper and stay in the job for one month.

Guy Middleton portrays Simon Russell, a womanising scoundrel. To gain his inheritance he must marry the first woman he speaks to upon leaving the will reading.

George Cole's character, Herbert Russell, is a timid bank employee who is tasked with holding up his bank without anyone recognising him.

The movie jumps back and forth between the characters as they attempt to undertake their individual quests. The comedy here isn't laugh-out-loud funny - possibly the funniest scenes involve Sim trying to shoplift in a department store - it's more about getting to know the characters and finding the humour in watching them do something that is totally alien to them... and along the way discovering something about themselves.

The print and sound on this new release are incredible, StudioCanal's restoration ensures that this classic movie can be enjoyed in the highest quality available. It's a fun movie with quite a few surprises up its sleeve.

Extras include:

Alastair Sim and Laughter in Paradise: Interview with Stephen Fry (22 min, 26 sec) Stephen Fry talks about the movie from memory. It's obvious he hasn't seen it recently as he remembers some of the facts of the plot incorrectly. At times he's a little too gushy. Yes, Sim is a great comedic actor, but to state that no one else could deliver a performance with the same depth is a little over the top.

Ministry of Information Short - Nero: Save Fuel (1943) (1 min, 46 sec) information film starring Sim and Cole.

Alastair Sim's Edinburgh University Rector's Speech (1949) (40 min, 57 sec) Audio only.

Behind The Scenes Stills Gallery (44 sec).

Easter Egg.


Darren Rea

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