I had never read much about (or even seen stills of) the six-man British comedy group The Crazy Gang, but my positive experiences with their contemporaries Will Hay and Arthur Askey and especially Graham Greene's high praise of THE FROZEN LIMITS itself ("The funniest English picture yet produced it can bear comparison with SAFETY LAST and THE GENERAL") made me take the plunge with the bare-bones R2 DVDs from Network of this and their subsequent film GASBAGS (1941; see below), both of which were released earlier this year with virtually no fanfare.
A British-made Western is a rarity, but a British Western spoof is rarer still (CARRY ON COWBOY  was still some 25 years away). Incidentally, going back to the Silent classics mentioned by Greene, the film seems to me to be more obviously indebted to THE GOLD RUSH (1925) and WAY OUT WEST (1937). Besides, it also plays like a variation on the "Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs" fairy-tale (which had just been immortalized on the screen via Walt Disney's animated masterwork) and where the seventh member is played by ancient comic and frequent Will Hay foil Moore Marriott; the Gang actually call pretty heroine Eileen Bell by that name throughout, and there's even an amusing sequence with the six of them preparing to go to bed and whistling the dwarfs' song from the Disney film!
Six comedians (three sets of comedy duos: Flanagan & Allen, Nervo & Knox and Naughton & Gold) may be the largest such grouping on film though not all of their personalities emerge here: my favorites were big Bud Flanagan (looking a bit like Jim Backus), straight man Chesney Allen and moustached, squeaky-voiced Teddy Knox; however, bald Charlie Naughton often took the limelight since he's the one on which the others always seemed to pick on. Still, it's Marriott who steals the film from his very first scene where he contrives to impersonate every official in the dilapidated theater of a ghost town!; a very young Bernard Lee is also notable as the villain of the piece.
The Ore routine between Flanagan and Allen actually anticipates Abbott and Costello's famous "Who's On First?" (the film, in fact, hinges on a lot of wordplay for its humor which doesn't necessarily travel, especially at this juncture). Nevertheless, there are several hilarious sequences throughout a few of which even brought tears to my eyes: the opening scene where the Gang are defrocked by a band of angry creditors; their dressing up as Indians once they hit the Yukon; the Gang's ruse to make everybody rich with the same piece of gold; they all impersonate the sleepwalking Marriott to confuse the villains (a gag which may owe its origin to the Marx Bros.' hilarious mirror sequence in DUCK SOUP ); the spot-on theater sketch which pokes fun at hoary melodramas; the surreal moment when, pursued by the villains, one of the Gang climbs a staircase that is part of the painted scenery in the theater; and especially towards the end, when a group of singing Mounted Police gallop ever so slowly to the Gang's rescue (despite being egged on by the increasingly impatient Ranger hero).
The thinny soundtrack and the frantic nature of the gags themselves made it hard for me to get all the jokes sometimes subtitles would certainly have been welcome in this case. The Crazy Gang only made five films with the first two also being well-regarded, O-KAY FOR SOUND (1937) and ALF'S BUTTON AFLOAT (1938), and a much later reunion (though Allen had, by this time, bowed out due to ill-health and been replaced by Eddie Gray) called LIFE IS A CIRCUS (1960; directed by Val Guest who, incidentally, co-wrote both Gang films I purchased as well as some of the afore-mentioned Hay and Askey vehicles!).
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