Rewind Reviews – The Plank (1979)

Posted on 1 April 2019
By Andrew Siddall
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There aren’t many amazing slapstick comedies around anymore, but back in the 70’s, writer and director Eric Sykes brought us an absolute masterpiece. In this Rewind Review, we take a look at the 1979 short film, The Plank.

In the remake of the 1967 film, of the same name, two builders find that a floorboard is missing in a new house, so they buy a replacement and return with it through the streets, causing unexpected chaos.

The late Eric Sykes (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) takes the lead as one of the two workmen. He is flawless in the role and makes every scene and outcome believable. Being the writer and director, it would have been easy to give himself the best part, but fortunately he gives each character their own personality and never threatens the spotlight.

TV legend Arthur Lowe (Dad’s Army) stars as the other workman, taking over from comedy icon Tommy Cooper. Much in the same way, he is perfectly cast and provides a suitably oblivious nature which makes his actions a little unpredictable and even funnier. It makes a change seeing him in this type of role and all the better for it.

The only other major character who gets any screen time is Jimmy Edwards as the Policeman, who actually manages to make his mark well known with one simple moment; not being able to jump on his bike until the worst possible moment.

There’s a ton of cameos from well-known British actors and actresses of the time including Lionel Blair, Brian Murphy, Joanna Lumley plus a handful of Carry On alumni: Bernard Cribbins, Harry H. Corbett, Frankie Howerd and Charles Hawtrey, all of who add a little extra something to the film and flesh out the world around the workmen.

The story only serves as a backdrop for the comedy, while the main focus is squarely on the chaos as the workmen make their way back to their house. The comedy is on point and never misses its mark. And while there are some jokes that feel familiar, there is always a surprise in store that nobody can see coming.

With this being a slapstick movie, the majority of the laughs comes from physical stunts, all of which are brilliantly realised and choreographed to maximum effect. Some of which are truly dangerous, but provide the best laughs.

Very fittingly, there’s a good soundtrack from Alan Braden which emanates the classic comedies from icons such as Laurel & Hardy. With almost zero dialogue, it falls onto the music to fill in the gaps, and it does its job well by keeping the tone light cheerful.

Overall, this is a hilarious short film that the entire family can enjoy. It’s a how-to on making a compelling and hilarious comedy that can maintain an element of surprise without becoming adult or childish. At under 30 minutes long, it’s breezy and never gets dull.

Purple Revolver rating: 5/5. A comedy gem.