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October 22, 2010

TV on DVD: Benny Hill: The Complete Megaset - The Thames Years, 1969 to 1989

On January 21st, 1924, a young British woman in Southhampton Hampshire, England gave birth to a comedy legend. That comedy legend, was the incomparable Alfred Hawthorn Hill; otherwise known as Benny Hill. Benny Hill passed away 18 years ago, but nearly all the bawdy, irreverent and outrageous humor Benny was so famous for - is conveniently packaged in this new release from A&E Home Video, Benny Hill - The Complete Mega-Set: The Thames Years 1969 to 1989. With more than 50 hours of material - including supplemental material -, this particular DVD set features fifty-eight episodes of the show, on eighteen DVDs. Sounds like a lot of material? It is, but for fans and Benny Hill completists, Benny Hill - The Complete Mega-Set: The Thames Years 1969 to 1989, has a great deal to offer those who adore the much admired cross-dressing, comedic chameleon.

Buy Benny Hill - The Complete Mega-Set: The Thames Years 1969 to 1989 on

All of Benny Hill's memorable characters, including : Moira Anderson, Mrs.Fripp, Sheridan Morely, Bobby Gently, Lord Boothby, Fred Scuttle, Chow Mein; and even celebrities such as Orson Welles and W.C Fields are present and given life through Benny’s numerous modifications. Benny’s talents don’t just revolve around a few different characters, it’s a world of individuals that inhabit Benny’s universe. One of my personal favorites is “ITV’s Most Loyal Viewer”, Mrs. Fripp . Mrs. Fripp is basically a TV addict who doesn’t leave her chair - and stares at a television set, as if she were under some kind of spell. Other amusing skits you can also look forward to on this monumental 18 DVD set are, The Minstrel Boy, Chow Mein and Cookie in Restaurant, Fred Scuttle’s Channel Tunnel and the hysterical Reverend Gray.

The packaging on this new set is a drastic improvement on the previous set released by A&E Home Video a few years ago. The bulky, shelf-killing box-set is gone ; in it's place, a very compact set – that’s less then a third of the size, of the Benny Hill: Complete and Unadulterated box-set. Only three cases are contained in the set. There are six DVD'S to a case - all divided perfectly, so scraping is not an issue at all. The set is a little heavy (Cinema Head Cheese editor, Kevin Moyers, even mentioned that their maybe "a piece of Benny with each set") though it's still so minor. It's an 18 Disc set after all! Now Benny can join you on your long trips, and of course ,comfortably sit among the other DVD's in your collection with out clogging up your valuable shelf.

The picture and audio quality are pretty good, considering the fact that many of the episodes are over 40 years-old. The aspect ratio is 1.33:1 Full-frame. The Dolby Digital Format is English 1.0 Mono. The quality is solid through-out; even on some of the older episodes dating back to 1969 and 1970. This is a testament to the care that was, thankfully, shown to these original master-tapes - which can easily begin to show considerable wear and decay if not properly stored. There are however instances of slight color loss and minor buzzing. You can't really expect it to have the sharpness of more recent television offerings. With that said, these shows could never look better than they do on this release.

The supplementary material - though much of the content is repeated from the previous release - are outstanding. On this set, spread out over the 18 discs, are numerous Benny Hill related bonus materials. Some people seem to like just having extras on one disc - as I do for some releases - but I actually enjoy the rhythm of the extras and there placement. They complement the content on each DVD generously. Here is what you will find on this set :The World s Favorite Clown; The Benny Hill Cheeky Challenge Trivia Quiz # 1-6; Benny Hill: Laughter and Controversy episode of A&E's award-winning Series BIOGRAPHY; Eddie in August; I Was A Hill’s Angel Featurette; Hill’s Angels: Off the Record Featurette; Hill’s Angels: In Conversation Featurette . Also included in this set , are extensive liners , chronicling every "Benny Quickie" and wacky bit on all the DVD's . This is essential to such a large collection and will just make it so much easier navigating through the many hours of material on this collection. The best extra features are easily; Eddie in August, The World s Favorite Clown and Benny Hill: Laughter and Controversy and The Worlds Favorite Clown. The World's Favorite Clown appears to have been filmed just before Benny's passing, in 1992. Several celebrities, including good pal, Mickey Rooney, Burt Reynolds (sporting his pre-gray toupee) and amazingly, the legendary ,Walter Cronkite show some love for the comedian. It's much more upbeat than the Benny Hill: Laughter and Controversy documentary - which is very well made, but lacks the "cheeky" charm of "Clown".

A&E Home Video has done a superb job archiving what is essentially the ultimate time- capsule for this comedic genius , who in his 67 years of life on this planet - transcended entertainment. Benny's ability to reach the funny bone was so broad, that he has a fan-base in every corner of the world. Yes, Benny even pops up on television screens in third-world countries. This release alone, has the potential of adding more lovers of this British funnyman’s unique brand of humor. The generous gathering of the assorted extras contained on this set, as well as providing viewers of Benny's show - who may not have seen the original broadcasts in the U.K, in their complete form - now can enjoy Benny in all his goofy glory.

Rating: Not Rated
Number of Discs: 18
Run Time: 48 Hours 20 Minutes + extras
Region: 1
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Language: English
Studio: AETN Television Networks

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