School for Scoundrels (1959)

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Released 24-Nov-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1959
Running Time 90:27
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Hamer
Ass British Pic Corp
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Ian Carmichael
Alistair Sim
Janette Scott
Dennis Price
Edward Chapman
Peter Jones
Kynaston Reeves
Irene Handl
John Le Mesurier
Gerald Campion
Hugh Paddick
Hattie Jacques
Case ?
RPI Box Music John Addison

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    This film is subtitled "or how to win without actually cheating!". Henry Palfrey (Ian Carmichael) is one of life's milquetoasts. While well-off due to inheriting a business from his uncle, he is imposed upon by everyone. We first meet him at the College of Lifemanship, an institution devoted to teaching people like Palfrey how to get one up on their opponents. The headmaster is Potter (Alistair Sim). Palfrey recounts his life in flashback from the time that he met April Smith (Janette Scott), who was taken from him by cad and bounder Raymond Delauney, ably played by cad and bounder specialist Terry-Thomas.

    Potter teaches Palfrey life lessons by example, with Palfrey acting out sequences like trying to get a girl into a compromising position, cheating at sport and so on. We then see Palfrey apply these lessons in real life.

    This film was made in the years before smut became a staple of British comedies, though there are several mildly risqué lines. It was directed by Robert Hamer, a fine director who made Kind Hearts and Coronets amongst others. By this stage of his career, he was deeply affected by alcoholism. Falling off the wagon during production, he was sacked from the film and it was completed by Cyril Frankel. The latter's contribution was uncredited, as was that of Peter Ustinov who co-wrote the screenplay. Hamer would never complete a film again, being sacked twice more during productions and dying in 1963 aged only 52. The central narrative has a lot in common with Buster Keaton's silent comedies, with an apparently incompetent lead who learns the ropes during the film and manages to succeed in the same situations he failed in earlier. Sadly, while this film has bright bits it seems quite uneven and never really springs to life, probably due to the problems with the director.

    Carmichael was the British comedian du jour during the period between Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers, and while his starring career was brief, he was very good at his best, and he is near his best here. Sim's scenes are few but telling, though I wish he had trimmed the hair in his ears. Terry-Thomas is excellent as usual. There are brief bits by John le Mesurier and Hattie Jacques, while Dennis Price and Peter Jones make for some funny used car salesmen. This film is worth seeing if you are a fan of the genre or actors, but general viewers may find it a bit twee.

    The movie is paired on a disc marketed as an Alistair Sim double-feature with The Green Man. That film is reviewed separately.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio was 1.66:1, and the opening credits are shown window-boxed in this aspect ratio. I guess that means that this is from a television print.

    The transfer is relatively sharp, looking like it is from 35mm material, but is not particularly crisp, just like the film it is paired with. Detail levels are acceptable. Contrast levels are okay, though the film has a flat look. Shadow detail is adequate.

    The film is in black and white, and has a slightly faded look, with no deep blacks in evidence. The various shades of grey are a little washed-out in appearance.

    The film is a bit jumpy at times, as if the print had been through a projector once too often, again like the film it is paired with. Film artefacts appear throughout. Scratches, white flecks, dirt and debris all make their appearances.

    No subtitles are available. The film is presented on one layer of a dual-layer disc, so there is no layer change.

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


    The sole audio track is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    The audio is satisfactory without being exceptional. Dialogue is clear enough, and although the sound is thin and wiry, there is a reasonable amount of bass present. There is some audible hiss and some slight distortion in the louder passages.

    The whimsical score is by John Addison. Typical British comedy music, it is quite light-hearted though there is good use of the orchestra, particularly the brassy theme in the opening credits.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    No extras are provided.

R4 vs R1

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

    The UK Region 2 release appears to be identical to the Region 4.


    An amusing though not top-notch British comedy.

    The video quality is disappointing.

    The audio quality is adequate.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Sunday, November 14, 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.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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