Classic Film Review: Another “Lost” Peter Sellers pic? “Penny Points to Paradise”

Here’s another project from the filmic pre-history of Peter Sellers, a little-seen if not “lost” comedy made his with fellow “Goon Show” castmates.

If the through-line of modern sketch comedy runs from the Goons to Monty Python to Second City and The Groundlings to “Saturday Night Live,” Kids in the Hall, “In Living Color,” Upright Citizens Brigade, Broken Lizard etc, where did the Goons draw their inspiration?

“Goon Show” radio recordings point to English Music Hall, simply sped-up and given a surreal twist. The 1951 debut “Goons” film, “Penny Points to Paradise” has that in excess, beginning right from the opening credits.

The film is peppered with Bob Hope-ish one-liners.

A chatty landlady merits “I bet she was vaccinated with a gramophone needle!”

“The blunt end?”

“No, probably in the arm.”

Scads and scads of these bubble from our “heroes” — played by Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan, founding members of the radio program, which had just begun broadcasting as “Crazy People” and devolved into “The Goon Show.”

Secombe plays a football pool (lotto) winner googly-eyed Milligan is his equally out-of-his-depth mate returning to their favorite dumpy hotel in Brighton, even though Harry’s hit it rich.

“The old place hasn’t changed, has it?” “Nooo. Not even the sheets.”

But as this farce, about forgers setting out to substitute their winnings with counterfeit five pound notes, gets going and Sellers shows up in a couple of roles (a fast-talking Canadian salesman, and the dotty, harrumphing “Major”), we’re treated to a lot of silent screen comedy — mime, fast-motion chases, slapstick golf and the like — all accompanied by a tinkly spinet piano score, just like you’d hear at the nickelodeon.

Even in an era when TV was emerging and vaudeville (in the US) and English Music Hall vets were its early stars, the film probably felt corny and dated the moment it hit the screen.

The band? “Felix Mendelssohn and his Hawaiian Serenaders.”

But if you’re a “completist,” trying to sample all the performers who shaped comedy for generations all across the English-speaking world, this one fills in a few more blanks.

MPA Rating: None at all.

Cast:  Harry Secombe, Spike Milligan, Vicky Page, Peter Sellers, Alfred Marks, Paddie O’Neil

Credits: Directed by Anthony Young, script by John Ormonde. A Film Movement Plus release.

Running time: 1:11

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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