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Ask a Policeman
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18 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

When the tide runs low in the smugglers cove...

10/10
Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
5 September 2009

Turnbotham Round has no crime, something that becomes common knowledge after a radio programme is broadcast from the village. Upon hearing this broadcast, the top brass at Scotland Yard send word that if there is no crime there, then why employ policemen to police the village? Realising that their good lives are about to come to an end, inept coppers Dudfoot {Will Hay}, Brown {Graham Moffatt} and Harbottle {Moore Marriott} set about making some arrests. What they hadn't bargained for was the uncovering of a smuggling ring, and the unleashing of the phantom headless horseman.

Much like Will Hay's Good Morning, Boys (1937) followed a similar formula to that of one of his earlier pictures, Boys Will Be Boys (1935). So it be with Ask A Policeman in that it has close links with critics fave, Oh Mr. Porter! (1937). However, that in no way is a bad thing because Ask A Policeman is utter joy from start to finish. In fact I would go so far as to say that the writing is actually better here. With a writing team consisting of Marriott Edgar, Sidney Gilliat, Val Guest and J.O.C. Orton, it's no wonder that the gags come thick and fast and still hold up over 70 years later.

Marcel Varnel once again directs Hay and his blunderingly magnificent sidekicks, Marriott and Moffatt, and each of them are on terrific form as they lurch from incredulity to stupidity within a heart beat. They are helped by the story and it's delightful supernatural set ups. These coppers have been having it easy for so long they have forgotten just what it takes to be a copper. More content with bending the rules for an easy life {note some nice satire in the writing}, these guys are suddenly faced with the supernatural and actual real crime. Something they are delightfully unable to cope with properly. From trying to set up a roadside speeding arrest to an attempt at solving an ancient smugglers rhyme, Ask A Policeman, courtesy of an across the board team on fire, is to my mind one of the greatest British films of all time. So pay attention to the jokes and admire the visual comedy that goes with them, and then hopefully you too will appreciate just what genius Hay and his cohorts brought to British comedy between 1936 to 1940. 10/10

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17 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

They don't get funnier than this!!!

Author: hairy-4 from england
18 October 2001

Ask a policeman, to my mind, is one of the greatest comedies ever made!!! Sure you might not see it on everybody's top 10 comedy lists but that's probably because they have never heard, nor seen the film before!!! Every second has a comic gem, not one minute goes by without an erruption of laughter from it's audience. It truly is one of the most underrated comedies ever made. I suggest you all go seek it out and find this out for yourselves!!!

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13 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

can't fault

10/10
Author: ben-trovato from suffolk, england
28 October 2004

Because "Oh Mr Porter" was filmed two years earlier, it gets more favour from the critics, but although this film was a reworking of that plot, it stands up equally, if not better. -

There are so many great scenes. My favourite being when Harbottle (Marriott already playing a much older man) takes them to see his father, played by himself. Just shows what a superb actor he was. - The print quality seems a little worse for wear in places. Probably due to over use!

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12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

A comic gem

Author: heedarmy from United Kingdom
5 February 2000

Will Hay's best-known film is the classic "Oh, Mr Porter" but this one isn't far behind. Hay is cast in his favourite role ; a seedily incompetent authority figure who conceals his uncertainty behind bluster and bombast.

This is one of those rare films where the plot is almost an intrusion ; who cares about a smuggling ring in rural England, when we can instead enjoy the antics of Hay and his cohorts, playing possibly the most inept police team in the history of law enforcement. Their attempts to set a speed trap, and then to justify their results to an irate motorist, may be the high spot of the film.

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11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Classic comedy from a comic genius

10/10
Author: markmonroe from Stevenage, UK
3 November 2000

What a comedy! This is a movie that had me laughing from beginning to end. Even after all these years the one line gags from Will Hay are superbly timed. The movie plot about smugglers is good but all three main characters make this film a real hoot as local village policemen. I have this on video and watch it regularly if I need a laughter pick-me-up! Classic line, they need to arrest someone to prove the village needs a local bobby, Moffatt suggests Guy Faulkes, to which Will Hay replies "he's not a criminal, he invented fireworks" brilliant!

Please watch it, you'll love it.

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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Great replay

8/10
Author: Gary170459 from Derby, UK
20 June 2004

Ask a policeman has always suffered from close comparison with Oh, Mr. Porter! and is therefore (unfairly) usually considered an inferior film. On its own it would stand up very well, with plenty of gags to the minute and set-pieces all working throughout, but because the plot was a retread from the previous classic it tends to be forgotten. And it's a pretty direct lifting at times, too! However, the gags do work and are different to reflect the slightly different situations the characters find themselves in and this alone can sustain the interest.

Instead of being railway employees at a lonely railway station up against smugglers this time they're police officers at a lonely police station up against smugglers.

In other words it's a beautiful re-run of OMP, but after watching it you can still think of just how inventive Val Guest, Marriott Edgar and Sidney Gilliat were in the screenplay, just how versatile Hay, Moffat and Marriott were in their portrayals of the Superior, Albert and Jerry and what a marvellous bookend this is for Oh, Mr.Porter!

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Three Blundering Policemen in Comical Romp

8/10
Author: movingpicturegal from Los Angeles
7 September 2006

Wacky British humor abounds in this story of three bumbling policemen (including a very old man and a very overweight youth) who run the tiny station in the quiet (so quiet there's nothing out at night except, of course, the night-riding "Headless Horseman") English village of Turnbottom Round where there has not been a single arrest made in over ten years. Promoting with pride this lack of crime on a radio program one evening, the next day the station gets a notice from the chief constable that their station is no longer needed, the policemen working there to be "retired or transferred". So - our three officers come up with the idea to *create* some crime, first putting up a local "speed trap", then later getting mixed up with a gang of real smugglers.

This film is, yes, quite silly, but very entertaining and amusing - boosted up considerably by the three actors who play the policemen. They seem to have a real camaraderie and rapport with each other, all look like they're having a great deal of fun making this. One very funny scene has the oldest policeman visiting, of all things, his even older father - played by the same actor, dressed up in bed with long white beard. One missed bit of humor I thought they could have done here though - they mention that the father still has a living wife and I thought it would have been funny if they had the same actor dress as her too and come out into the room. In fact, that is what I was expecting when the woman was mentioned, but it didn't happen - ah well. A quite humorous and enjoyable film.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Still wonderful nonsense-satire from the incomparable Will Hay (possible spoiler)

8/10
Author: robert de saint-loup (hitch1899_@hotmail.com) from balbec, france
7 February 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There is a kind of English comedy, hugely popular in the 1930s, that seems grimly alien to us now. George Formby, Arthur Askey, Gracie Fields, Jessie Matthews and others were massive stars then, but their films were just extensions of their music hall acts, with the sketch-like frames of poor verbal play, cosy ideology, silly accents and bumbling slapstick stretched out into a narrative format, which only further lays bare their datedness.

One could argue that the same went for the Marx Brothers, with one crucial difference. They were funny. And inventive. Two crucial differences. For a truly innovative use of the music hall ethos, one must look to Hitchcock's English films. It's hard to believe that these Victorian relics were being made at the same time as sophisticated modernist masterpieces like BRINGING UP BABY. Nowadays they are cheap fodder for the likes of Paul Whitehouse.

There is one exception to all this, Will Hay, who remains as peerlessly funny today as he did in his Hayday (sorry). Well, I think so: my wife walked out after ten minutes. Why has he survived? His films are slightly better constructed than those of his peers, with director Varnel not content with simply filming theatre. But the plots consist of the same sketch-like format, with Hay and his two cronies, Graham Moffatt and Moore Marriot, both acting as characters in a comedy, and grandstanding to a perceived music hall audience. Much of the comedy seems similar and faded too, as to be almost cosily familiar.

I think there are two reasons why Hay survives so well. One is the Hay persona. Usually playing authority figures - policemen, schoolteachers, railway station managers etc. - he created a character that had an element of WC Fields misanthropy laced with an ineptness, a seediness, a megalomania, a greed, a desire to evade duty and yet reap as many rewards as possible, an underlying selfish contempt, and, most importantly, a freedom from sentimentality, that is strikingly modern. He doesn't sing for his supper like Formby, he doesn't try to ingratiate: he is often grotesque and unpleasant, indifferent to what we think; but he has a literal, almost honest, expedience that makes him oddly endearing.

The power of this persona, and the second reason for his continued immortality, is that it can act as a weopon of satire on two fronts. Firstly on the characters he plays. Here, as the title suggests, he is a policeman, in a sleepy English village which has an astonishing crime-free record for the past ten years. This is due less to vigilant law enforcement than the fact that Hay ignores crime and that he and his men are involved in all kinds of petty illegalities themselves. The film opens with a dire warning of widespread crime in England, and it seems we're in for a conservative picture, but the locus of criminality here is with the law.

The second kind of subversion is practised by these corrupt policemen. The peace and well-being of any society depends on the efficiency of its police force, whose success becomes a mirror of stability. The distorted mirror offered here reflects a topsy-turvy world where nothing is what is seems. There is much play in the film with mirrors and signs, with uniforms and social statuses shown to be arbitrary constructions - local aristocrats are ruthless smugglers etc. The credit sequence emphasises this, and the policemen are constantly rearranging signs, destroying the stability of society for their own ends (see the brilliant traffic-speeding episode).

These are inept, simple-minded policemen, and to dominate their plot, they have to make the world in their own crazy image, as shown in the remarkable chase finale, which results in the astonishing sight of a packed bus chasing a smuggling truck on an operative racing track. Yet even success here for the policemen does not result in normality and resolution - their ineptness and greed has totally unpended notions of law and order, and they become caught in a circular hell of their own making.

POLICEMAN is a wonderful comedy, directed with surprising imagination. The plot is a direct rip-off of Hay's masterpiece, OH! MR PORTER, with dozy professionals outwitting the supernatural and smuggling. The Headless Horseman here is much more frightening than anything in SLEEPY HOLLOW, and the kickstarting of a ghost story element into a hitherto casual plot is very effective. There is some lovely satire of the BBC's pretensions to being the voice of Britain, its metropolitan patronising of yokels and its contrivance of 'reality'.

The immortal trio are at their narrow-minded best, performing a deceptively varied range of comedy - from slapstick to farce to CARRY ON-style doubles entendres - with practiced, thrilling ease. I'd love to know how this kind of comedy translates to America - the absurdity, proto-deconstruction, daft high-pitched voices and elaborate set-pieces would leave a surprising imprint on the mighty MONTY PYTHON.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

My brief review of the film

Author: sol- from Perth, Australia
13 December 2005

The primary cast and crew of the British comedy classic 'Oh, Mr. Porter!' are teamed up again in this film that has performances that are just as delightful, and humour that is just as charming. Upon comparison with 'Oh, Mr. Porter!' it is easy to dismiss this film as its inferior, however it is in fact almost up to the same quality. The film is often hilarious in the first half, and in the second half there are suspense elements well worked into the plot. Some of the lines are hysterically funny, and Graham Moffatt has hardly been better, playing the smartest, but yet also the slackest, of the bunch. No one does ineptitude as well as Will Hay, and this film is further proof of this. Moore Marriott is delightful as always and has an amusing second role here. The film's technical side may be no match for the technical side of 'Oh, Mr. Porter!', but no doubt a lot of care and consideration was taken to scout out all the appropriately dark settings. The gags are most of the storyline and the subject matter is too slim for a full-length film, but for what it is, the film is excellent and immensely entertaining along the way. Simple comedies, and old British comedies, hardly get better than this.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

An American Laughed

10/10
Author: bugsmoran29 from United States
20 May 2015

I have to admit I enjoyed this old British comedy from the Thirties. Some of the one-liners made me howl. I especially enjoyed Graham Moffat as the fat and high-pitched voice. The ending put me in mind of the 3 Stooges as the three English bobbies run away from the mess they had created. I came across this gem on you tube and I intend to watch the rest of the series that starred Will Hays, a long forgotten comic star from a long forgotten time period in film history. It was felt by many people in Hollywood that English and European humor just didn't transfer well across the Atlantic Ocean, but films like 'Ask a Policeman' proves that theory wrong.

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