Frankie Howerd-The Best of

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Released 26-Aug-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production ?
Running Time 66:05 (Case: 65)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By None Given

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Frankie Howerd
Terry Wogan
Michael Parkinson
Bob Monkhouse
Russell Harty
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Alan Braden

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The BBC is in the process of releasing material on DVD in a series it calls Classic Comedy, featuring the best of British comedians and television comedy series. At last they have gotten around to Frankie Howerd (1917-1992), a popular post-WWII British radio comedian who graduated to films and television, with a major success in the late 1960s in a comedy series called Up Pompeii! This show was set in Pompeii during Roman times and featured the adventures of Lurcio, a household slave in the house of Senator Ludicrus Sextus. Most of the show was taken up with Lurcio addressing the audience, both directly and as asides during the plot sequences. The series was modelled on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in which Howerd had starred on the London stage. I can recall watching Up Pompeii! back in the early 1970s, which is when I first became aware of Howerd, and I also remember seeing a spin-off feature film called Up the Chastity Belt at the cinema around this time.

    His film career was not a notable success, and nor was his TV career before and after Up Pompeii!, which you will gather from this programme which mainly features excerpts from TV series and talk show appearances he made. The programme opens with an extract from the follow-up programme he made called Further Up Pompeii in 1975 (the actor playing Prodigious in this clip is Leon Greene, an Australian actor who starred in the film version of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), and closes with a sequence from a 1970 episode of Up Pompeii!. In between, we see some sketches from a 1973 series called An Evening With Francis Howerd, plus a whole host of TV show appearances, such as those hosted by Terry Wogan and Michael Parkinson. There is also a short film of Howerd recording a radio show, plus a performance for some troops in Borneo. Strangely, there were no clips from Whoops Baghdad!, an unsuccessful attempt to repeat the success of Up Pompeii! in 1973.

    The programme on this disc consists solely of film clips, with no narration or obvious order to the selections. The name of the show and the year of production is displayed over the start of each clip.

    These clips show Howerd as a comedian with a penchant for lewd jokes and double entendres. His stock in trade was saying something that had a double meaning, then giving a withering look toward the audience when they laughed for taking the "wrong" meaning. He would also say "no tittering" or "titter ye not" when the audience giggled, though there is none of the latter catchphrase on this disc. Having watched the second series of the still hilarious Up Pompeii! in recent years on cable television, I have to say I was disappointed with a lot of the material on this disc, which is only mildly funny or not funny at all any more. I get the impression that Howerd needed good material to work his particular brand of magic. Still, it was worth watching for the earlier stuff, which is still quite humorous, especially the Up Pompeii! clip. The BBC should release this entire 13 episode series on DVD as a more fitting tribute to Howerd.

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Transfer Quality


    The entire programme is in the original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is of course not 16x9 enhanced.

    Being from a variety of video sources, the quality of the video material varies widely, though it is not too bad. It looks much better than the two Porridge discs I have reviewed, for example. The image is reasonably sharp most of the time, though there are some sequences that look fuzzier, especially the black and white clips.

    The material is mainly in colour, and has the usual lack of vividness associated with older video material. Colours only approximate natural hues rather than being accurate representations.

    Apart from occasional analogue video tracking errors, I did not notice any significant film to video artefacts. There are a couple of fleeting instances of cross-colouration and some colour bleeding, but these were not at distracting levels.

    The oldest material here is the Borneo sequence which is in black and white and is quite grainy.

    The programme is presented on a single-layered disc and has some clear English subtitles which accurately reflect the dialogue, shown in small white lettering.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The sole audio channel is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, reflecting the original recordings. There is no surround encoding.

    Dialogue is clear and distinct throughout, with no major problems apart from a disappointingly high level of hiss and sibilance during the Up Pompeii! clip. Other than that, the audio is no better or worse than you would expect from twenty and thirty year old video material.

    There is no music score, other than some music by Alan Braden during the opening and closing credits.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Giving the short running time of just over an hour, there would have been room for some extras. But nothing is provided, not even a text biography or trailers for other releases in the Classic Comedy series.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This disc is identical to that being released in Region 2, so there is no reason to prefer one above the other.


    A slightly disappointing selection of material featuring this British comedian.

    The video quality is satisfactory given the nature of the source material.

    The audio quality is acceptable apart from the final item.

    No extras are provided.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Saturday, August 07, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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