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For more than three decades Benny Hill and his half-dressed bevy of buxom beauties brought their bawdy brand of British comedy to the world, but this is the first collection to contain his first 11 episodes in their original, uncut glory. Enjoy! 3 DVDs. 1969-71/color/9 hrs/NR/fullscreen.
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Benny Hill Complete and Unadulterated catches the boyish, British comedian just after he ended a long association with the BBC (where he was a busy star) and leaped to the commercial Thames Television in 1969, where he enjoyed creative control and successful syndication in America for 20 years. The premiere episode of The Benny Hill Show made television history as one of Thames' first color broadcasts, though a mid-season strike by technicians forced the show to revert to black-and-white, resulting in several "lost" episodes that have reemerged in this boxed set. (They offer some of the best material in this batch.)
Hill is an interesting, internationally popular figure in British comedy, his act more rooted in vaudeville and smooth, lowbrow innuendo than the surreal or topical. He gets a lot of mileage out of a mere roll of his eyes or knowing grin, but he is never short of energy during elaborate sketches or his trademark chases at the end of each episode. The Benny Hill Show, with its emphasis on scantily clad women and endless jokes about getting/not getting sex, never pushes the comic envelope, exactly, but Complete and Unadulterated demonstrates that Hill, who died in 1992, had more ingenuity and diverse originality than his reputation might reflect. Hill is just as comfortable gracing the opening of every show with a silly, risque ditty ("She wouldn't let me marry Jean / She said it was because she thought I was Effeminate / And compared to her, I was") as mocking television itself (in a clever, "Top of the Pops" send-up), skewering suburban swingers ("Henry and Alice and Bob and Mary"), or mounting a Cold War farce (in which an East-West border, running through a honeymoon suite, causes havoc for a newlywed couple). Luckily, this set allows one to select individual sketches or songs (Kiki Dee turns up for a go at "You've Made Me So Very Happy") within all 11 episodes, and to access each episode without having to go back to the disc's main menu. A repeat viewer can easily glide around the full season and cobble together the perfect, best-of program. There's certainly plenty of good material to go around; check out the lengthy "European Song Contest" for a true classic. --Tom Keogh
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