TOO MANY CROOKS (director: Mario Zampi; screenwriters: Michael Pertwee/based on a story by Jean Nery & Christiane Rochefort; cinematographer: Stanley Pavey; editor: Bill Lewthwaite; music: Stanley Black; cast: Terry-Thomas (William Delany Gordon), George Cole (Fingers), Brenda De Banzie (Lucy Gordon), Bernard Bresslaw (Snowdrop), Sid James (Sid), Vera Day (Charmaine Gordon), Delphi Lawrence (Beryl), John Le Mesurier (Magistrate), Rosalie Ashley (Angela), Tommy (Nicholas Parsons), Edle Martin (Gordon’s Mother); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Mario Zampi; United Artists; 1959-UK)
“Uneven slapstick Brit comedy that is sometimes funny if you have a taste for the humor of Terry-Thomas.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Uneven slapstick Brit comedy that is sometimes funny if you have a taste for the humor of Terry-Thomas. It’s written by Michael Pertwee and based on a story by Jean Nery & Christiane Rochefort. Italian expatriate director Mario Zampi (“The Naked Truth”/”Laughter in Paradise”/”Happily Ever After”), a former editor, keeps it slapstick silly as a classic British farce that tells about a gang of bumbling cockney crooks who set out to kidnap a wealthy man’s daughter for ransom but mistakenly get his unwanted wife instead.
After a botched smash-and-grab burglary due to the ineptness of the dimwit boss, Fingers (George Cole), the crew consisting of the gruff squint-eyed thug Sid (Sidney James), the 6’7″ amiable but moronic ex-pug Snowdrop (Bernard Bresslaw), the scrawny Whisper (Joe Melia) and the statuesque dumb blonde Beryl (Delphi Lawrence) give their leader one last chance to plan a caper for a big payoff. Fingers targets wealthy self-made entrepreneur Billy Gordon (Terry-Thomas) for a heist because he doesn’t put his money in banks to avoid taxes and therefore should have it in the house. When the inept gang put on disguises and try to rob Gordon’s office safe, he easily outsmarts the dummies and foils the robbery. Their Plan B has them abduct and ask ransom for Gordon’s sweet 17-year-old daughter Charmaine (Vera Day), but mistakenly they kidnap his neglected wife Lucy (Brenda De Banzie).
Gordon tells the kidnappers he won’t pay them and that he doesn’t care what they do to his wife, they can even cut her up into little pieces for all he cares. Unfortunately Lucy overhears this and the scorned woman plans to get revenge on her heartless, tax cheating, shady businessman and unfaithful lecher husband, as she becomes boss of the bumbling gang and shows them how to steal all hubby’s hidden money to be split up half for her and half for the gang. In the end, the now wealthy wife returns to her penniless husband as the top dog in this marriage.
Terry-Thomas is smarmy and dark as the louse, who is able to get laughs from just his chattering teeth. The inept gang bring about some lighthearted and juvenile humor to the crime story. Some of the gang members would go on to make their mark in the Carry On comedies. Too Many Crooks provides plenty of low-brow brain-addled comedy to make this routine comedy agreeable but hardly memorable.
REVIEWED ON 3/20/2009 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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