Two part video collection released as 'The Crazy world of Benny Hill', while only the 1988 hour long special featured on part two bares that title. At this time Benny was still doing two or three shows a year, but he was starting to look as old and tired as his material. Forever putting himself down, he found ways to make fun of even this. In one eerily prophetic sketch Henry McGee plays a film editor commenting on Benny's latest sketch, saying he's getting too fat and everything takes too long. This may have been true, but still he remained a master of comic timing who knew how to build up to a great punchline (compared to SNL where many sketches are left to peter out). Benny loved spoofing other programmes (he was most happy sat before a TV set at home), and this one features a Dallas like soap called 'The Herd'. As usual he plays several parts and pokes fun at familiar conventions like split screen. Strangely, the unconvincing stock shots are not played for laughs.
Part one, heralded as 'Benny Hill's Greatest Hits' is the better (and longer) of the two. Although it mostly focuses on stuff from the late eighties, when his well loved sidekick Jackie Wright had already passed away, there are some classic bits like the weather hut routine and the stripping clown thrown in for good measure (even Jackie appears once or twice). One very long sequence called 'The Life Story of Jamie McFamie' seems to incorporate several different sketches into one. Later Benny and Sue Upton do a touching homage to Laurel and Hardy, especially since Benny lets Sue shine (excuse the pun) more than him. Unheralded scene stealer Bob Todd also gets to star in a couple of quickies of his own. Both tapes feature musical interludes by Louise English and Hills Angels, and as always Fred Scuttle and the fictional town of (Little) Dimpton are present and accounted for.
People who complain about Benny Hill using the same material over and over again tend to forget he invented most of the stuff, being a true television comedy pioneer. Tricks with mirrors, fast forward, stop motion, back projection, puppets, sight gags, writing on the wall, songs and impressions (well accents at least) you name it he did it. One more thing he added near the end of his run were sketches built around small children credited as 'Hills Little Angels' (they were in fact the children of Sue Upton and others). I am afraid trying to combine his trademark naughty humour with grandfatherly bits was part of his undoing. Although this compilation is not really his greatest hits after all, it is interesting to have a collection of material made up of the later, less often repeated shows. Likewise Monty Python fans are still looking forward to finding that virtually unwatchable last series of The Flying Circus (when Cleese had already left).
6 out of 10
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