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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Benny Hill: Complete & Unadulterated - The Hill's Angel's Years, Set Four
Benny Hill: Complete & Unadulterated - The Hill's Angel's Years, Set Four
A&E Video // Unrated // January 31, 2006
List Price: $49.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted February 14, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

The phrase "British comedy" has always encompassed a wide range of comedic styles, all of which are mostly defined by being different from the typical US. sitcom. Weird, off-beat humor with a streak of self-parody has always been a staple of British comedy, and in that vein, Benny Hill certainly deserves the title of "Prime Minister of Comedy." Following up on the DVD release of three sets of The Naughty Early Years (1969-1977), Set Four covers The Hill's Angels Years: 1978-1981. It's in these episodes, working with a new producer, that Benny Hill brought in the famous women performers who would show off their scantily clothed bodies in a wide range of comedy skits. But the center of the show remains the remarkably versatile Benny Hill himself.

The ten episodes presented here represent the complete output of the show over the four years of 1978-1981; even with international success in the bag, Hill preferred to make relatively few shows rather than risk diluting the comedy material. US viewers are now able to see the episodes in their original, uncut format, as all of them are presented in their original 50-minute length rather than the cut-down versions that were broadcast in the US.

If you're already a Benny Hill fan, you know what to expect... if you haven't seen the show, or if it's been many years since you caught an episode, the best word to describe it is probably "madcap," closely followed by "oddball," "goofy," and "wacky." The Benny Hill Show is presented as a variety show, with comic skits on an assortment of different topics interspersed with mock interviews, song and dance routines, and monologues. The Benny Hill cast, including the recurring character actors as well as the Hill's Angels, take on different roles depending on the skit; some of the charm of the skits is seeing the actors again and again as different characters. Hill himself is a virtuoso of this style of comedy, gleefully playing every type of character imaginable, high or low class, clever or clueless, and often in drag. Most impressive is his incredible ability to do different accents, which is used to the fullest in the show; he's also a dab hand when it comes to singing his own comic songs.

One of the characteristics of these episodes is their enthusiastic, over-the-top bawdiness. I don't know about the state of affairs in Britain, but I'm sure that a show like this wouldn't have a ghost of a chance of being produced nowadays in the US. Buxom women abound, often dressed in the skimpiest of bikinis or appearing in their underwear, and there's a continuing theme of lechery throughout all the episodes. Benny Hill in particular often ends up playing a character who's desperately trying to grope and/or ogle a woman in some state of undress; visual jokes often revolve around breasts and bottoms being fondled or bumped up against in inopportune situations. Curiously, though, I don't find any of it to be offensive in the least - it's over the top and undeniably crude, but never in a cruel or repellent way. I think that part of Benny Hill's charm is that the bawdiness comes with a streak of self-parody. In playing these dirty-minded men, Hill is poking fun at the very culture that considers it both dirty and desirable to watch women prance around in their underwear, and he's taking a jab at the male sex for being so fascinated with, say, breasts. Nor are the Hill's Angels mere patsies: in fact, most of the skits that involve a character attempting to go for a grope end up with the misbehaving man being bopped on the head by a shocked woman.

It's not just in the realm of sex that Benny Hill dives in without a care in the world; his humor touches on just about anything, without regard to whether it might offend someone. Take the "Wheelchair Rally" segment, for instance, or the "Wondergran" bits; after all, why should humor restrict itself to topics of the young and able-bodied, when cantankerous old folks have plenty of comic material to contribute as well? Religion and national origin are also not spared, offering material for Hill to have his usual wacky fun with.

I'm not sure exactly what was cut from the Benny Hill episodes for their broadcast in the US; it may have been the "naughtier" bits that were cut (although that would amount to removing most of the episode, most of the time...). One thing that I can see, though, is that not all of the skits would translate particularly well (or at all) in cultural terms. I'm pretty familiar with British culture in general, but I was left scratching my head on a number of the skits, as they depended on the viewer being completely in the know about British pop culture and politics of the time.

On the whole, I found the shorter segments (often labeled as "Quickies") to be the most amusing, followed by the "story" skits, which cover a wide variety of topics with a common style: the story is heavy on the physical comedy, the action is slightly sped up, and there are sound effects but usually no dialogue (or the dialogue is a fast-forwarded gabble). The episodes also contain "Benny's Ballads" on a regular basis, which are generally well done but run a bit long for my taste.

Benny Hill may not be to everyone's taste, but it's certainly distinctive and quite funny in its own peculiar way - especially when taken in small doses. (Fifty minutes at a time can feel a bit overwhelming, and I certainly recommend spacing out your viewing of the episodes for maximum enjoyment.) Fans of the show will be very pleased to see these ten additional episodes to their collection.


Benny Hill: The Hill's Angels Years is a three-DVD set, with each disc in its own ultra-thin plastic case, with the three inside a glossy paperboard slipcover.


The image quality is reasonable for a British television show from 1978-81; it's far from perfect, but it's certainly watchable. The indoor shots are generally clear and clean, with natural-looking colors. Outdoor material is in worse shape, with many scratches and flaws, and a generally more soft and worn appearance. Overall, though, it's perfectly watchable.


The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is clean and clear, giving viewers a satisfactory listening experience.


Disc 3 contains the only bonus material on this set. We get a 16-minute featurette called "I Was a Hill's Angel"; featuring present-day interviews with a number of the Hill's Angels, it offers an interesting retrospective on the show and should be particularly enjoyable for fans of the show. There's also a Benny Hill trivia quiz. A package insert also provides some text information on this section of the Benny Hills Show.

Final Thoughts

Benny Hill is quite... different... than the comedy that most viewers in the US are used to. Bawdy, lewd, yet at the same time curiously innocent in its overall tone, The Benny Hill Show offers a smorgasbord of comic skits, songs, dances, and monologues. The Hill's Angels set includes all ten episodes from 1978-1981 in their original, uncut format (50 minutes). While it's certainly a show that needs to be taken in small doses, overall I'd say that it merits a "recommended" rating.

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