When 'The Punch and Judy Man' was released Tony Hancock had been one of Britain's favourite radio and television comedians for about seven years. His work was brilliantly written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson who worked many of Hancock's own quirks into his screen character.
Unfortunately Hancock's intellectual pretension came to the fore as he began to feel limited by Galton and Simpson's writing and decided he would try more serious comedy on the lines of Chaplin and Jacques Tati. We can see this ambition in the film's titles: starring Tony Hancock, screenplay by Tony Hancock (and Philip Oakes), based on an idea by Tony Hancock. Apparently Hancock also wanted to direct and photograph the film but Associated British vetoed this.
Ultimately Hancock lacked the intellectual depth and discipline of his heroes and his public didn't want to see him in an unfamiliar role. The result was a box office dud.
Forty years later we can see the film more objectively. The frustration is that the viewer can sense what Hancock was aiming for: a satirical look at celebrity and snobbery within the confines of a fading marriage. For example, the name of the fictional location - Piltdown - suggests the intellectual fraudulence of the town's middle-classes, being based on a faked primitive man which fooled the scientific establishment for half a century.
Unfortunately other elements creep in, such as the pathos of a little boy slipping his hand into Hancock's as they walk along a rain drenched sea-front. Until this point their relationship has been one of mutual irritation (the boy attends all Hancock's Punch and Judy shows and corrects him when he gets the plot wrong) which is much more satisfying.
The best moments occur with Hancock's gleeful anarchy as he annoys the 'Yaks', self-serving members of a secret society who dominate local business and politics. The ice-cream eating scene is excellent. The final scene with the wife is quite touching a we see them reach new understanding and mutual respect.
Despite good things the film never quite comes to the boil, but the good things are worth watching the film for, such as Lady Jane Caterham's speech to the good people of Piltdown - as wicked an impersonation of the Queen's delivery as I've ever heard.
A last word. For some reason the video release I have cuts two short but crucial early scenes: Hancock shoving a bunch of artificial flowers up the rear of an ornamental china pig to show his frustration with his marriage, and of him raising his hat to the Mayor while actually giving the 'V'-sign with his fingers. Perhaps this was to ensure a 'U' certificate but it seems a poor reason to chop a film.
The Punch and Judy Man
The Punch and Judy Man
Dark comedy about a seaside Punch and Judy man driven to distraction by his social climbing wife and his hatred for the snobbery of local government. He is persuaded to go to the Mayor's gala evening but it's all too much for him.
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
October 18, 2019 at 07:34 PM