Eric Sykes | 51 mins | TV | 1.66:1 | UK / English | U
A near-silent slapstick comedy starring Tommy Cooper and Eric Sykes, I’d never heard of The Plank until MovieMail highlighted it in a recent catalogue — I swear they gave it a fairly thorough write-up and called it a “must see” (or words to that effect), but I can’t find it now… Weird. (Incidentally, if you don’t get the MovieMail catalogue, you really should — it’s the best free film magazine I know, and probably bests a fair few purchasable ones too.) Anyway, after remembering MovieMail said it was a must see (even if they didn’t), Channel 5 helpfully put it on late one night over Christmas. So I watched it.
The film opens with the credits being sung to the viewer — a surreal touch that indicates the kind of experience you’re in for. The humour, as noted, is primarily of a slapstick variety, much of it unsurprisingly revolving around the titular slab of wood. Some of it is very amusing, but it really only works for people who like that kind of humour. That might sound self evident, but I mean I can’t see this as a film that will convert anybody. At times it coasts a little too; perhaps too much for such a short running time.
There’s actually a surprising amount of dialogue, considering I’ve seen it several times cited as being a silent comedy. The vast majority is inconsequential and there’s no significant humour there, which does render it an almost pointless inclusion — why not go the whole hog and make it dialogue-free? But then, this isn’t The Artist, so why not have chatter?
Also worthy of note are the supporting roles, featuring numerous comedy stars, many with names still recognised today: Roy Castle, Jimmy Tarbuck, Hattie Jacques, Bill Oddie… Can’t say I spotted them all in the film, but they must be there somewhere.
Some people seem to adore The Plank, and I’m glad for them that it’s made its way to DVD. It’s certainly a left-field kind of movie, very ’60s, and while I only really enjoyed it in parts, it’s the kind of thing I appreciate having seen. Well done, MovieMail.