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Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
The Eric Sykes Collection

The Eric Sykes Collection

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Released 31-Aug-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Alternate Audio-Laughter Track Free Audio Option For The Plank
Bonus Episode-The Big Freeze
Filmographies-Cast-Eric Sykes
DVD-ROM Extras-Story Info
Trailer-Man About The House, George And Mildred
Trailer-Love Thy Neighbour, Bless This House, Benny Hill
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production ?
Running Time 109:49 (Case: 120)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Eric Sykes

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Eric Sykes
Various British Comedians
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Alan Braden
Denis King
Dave Howman & Andre Jacquemin

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Alternate Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

    Like many of the great British comedians, Eric Sykes began his successful career writing for radio. In his case, writing for comedian Frankie Howerd on a show entitled Variety Bandbox. While the show made Howerd a household name, it also set up Sykes for additional radio work. His radio credits include writing for the series Entertaining Archie, which ran from 1950 - 1960. Sykes also co-wrote 24 episodes of the milestone radio show The Goon Show with Spike Milligan.

    His natural progression to television was assured, writing and playing bit parts for many shows during the fifties. He was rewarded with his own one-off show in 1956, a show called Dress Rehearsal. Two further specials followed over the next couple of years; Opening Night and Gala Opening.

    However, his big break came in 1960 with his own series, entitled Sykes And A.... , in which he teamed up with the late Hattie Jacques. The teaming of the pair worked a treat, with the show running for five years. Eric and Hattie revamped the winning formula again seven years later with a series called Sykes, which also ran for five years.

    In 1967, Sykes wrote and directed a short film called The Plank. It became the first in a series of very successful short films that were virtually free of any dialogue. This format of comedy also suited him as a matter of convenience. Eric Sykes had developed serious hearing problems, stemming from the fifties, which would eventually render him almost totally deaf.

    The Plank and another of his short films, Rhubarb (1969), were re-made for Thames Television in 1979 and 1980 respectively. Both were modified to fit a running time of slightly under thirty minutes. While The Plank kept its original title, Rhubarb became Rhubarb, Rhubarb for the television version.

    This collection of short films is a sample of Eric Sykes' work, made for Thames Television. Each film features the cream of British comedy of the time and will provide many familiar faces for those old enough to remember.

    The Plank - 1979 (27:48)

    Two builders discover they are one timber plank short of finishing the floor of the house they are building. Looking out the window, they see a couple of children using the plank as a seesaw. Rather than disturb the frolicking, they head off to the timber yard for an extra plank. This seemingly simple excursion turns out to be anything but.

    As previously mentioned, this is the remade for television version. It is about fifteen minutes shorter than the original version, with a somewhat streamlined plot. The Plank features Eric Sykes, Arthur Lowe, Harry H. Corbett, Charlie Drake, Jimmy Edwards, Frankie Howerd, Brian Murphy, Reg Varney and many others.

    Rhubarb, Rhubarb - 1980 (27:55)

    The friendly rivalry of a golf game between the police inspector and the local vicar intensifies with some underhanded tactics. A police constable is working down the fairway to ensure that the inspector has the winning edge. All seems to be going well for the inspector until the vicar calls on some help from a much higher source. Rhubarb, Rhubarb features Eric Sykes, Jimmy Edwards, Bob Todd, Charlie Drake and Hattie Jacques.

    It's Your Move - 1982 (26:22)

    When newlyweds move into their new home, they quickly discover that the removal men have never heard the term "happily ever after". A series of clumsy events turns this cheerful occasion into one big blundering farce. It's Your Move features Eric Sykes, Tommy Cooper, Richard Briers, Sylvia Syms, Jimmy Edwards, Brian Murphy, Andrew Sachs and Bob Todd.

    Mr. H. Is Late - 1988 (27:44)

    A group of funeral directors arrive at a 26 storey block of flats to pick up a body in a coffin. Of course the coffin happens to be on the top floor and the elevator appears to be out of order. The chaos of removing the coffin is matched by the crazy happenings outside of the building. Mr H is running late for his own funeral and the vicar is becoming rather edgy. Mr. H. Is Late features Eric Sykes, Jimmy Edwards, John Alderton, Spike Milligan, Richard O'Sullivan, Charlie DrakeDennis Waterman and many others.

    Strangely, the fifth short film in the collection, The Big Freeze, is found in the special features section on the DVD and is presented as a bonus feature. Either way, it is a very welcome addition to this collection. See the extras section of this review for more information.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The video transfer is quite reasonable and is probably as good as you are likely to get from the source material.

    The short films are presented fullscreen in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced.

    Sharpness and clarity obviously varies a considerable amount over all five films, but I didn't find any of them to be terribly problematic in this area. In general all the films exhibited an image that was more soft than sharp. Blacks and shadows appeared rather clean and detailed, without delivering any startling results.

    Colours also varied from film to film, but again, nothing presented as a particularly negative issue. In general, colours appeared to be well balanced on the disc.

    I found no familiar MPEG artefacts in this transfer. There was a strange but unobtrusive artefact which appeared only during the closing credits of all the featured short films. It appeared as a very small black and white striped box in the top right corner of the screen. Thankfully, though, it was not overly distracting.

    There are no subtitles available on this disc, but as these short films are basically dialogue free, this isn't much of an issue.

    This DVD is a single sided, dual layered disc. The layer change occurs between shows, so there was no noticeable distraction.

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


    The audio transfer is also quite good.

    There are two audio tracks available on this DVD. English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) is the standard track, with the alternate track for The Plank being of the same specifications.

    Dialogue quality was fine for the very limited amount spoken. Audio sync also appeared to be excellent.

    The musical scores are credited to Alan Braden on The Plank, It's Your Move and Mr.H. Is Late. Denis King has the credit on Rhubarb, Rhubarb and Dave Howman and Andre Jacquemin on The Big Freeze. With minimal dialogue, the music plays an important role. All the scores added enhancement to the action on-screen without being intrusive or annoying.

    The surround channels were not used in the four main featured films. The audio track for The Big Freeze was surround encoded, but was not particularly challenging.

    The subwoofer rarely came to life.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The Big Freeze is included in the extras and not in the featured line-up. I can only assume this is because the film was not made especially for Thames. If you take this feature away, the extras package is rather minimal. However, those on offer are still informative and relevant to the subject matter.


    The menu design is static and basic. It features a looped music sample in the main menu that wears thin very quickly. All menus are 16x9 enhanced.

Bonus Feature - The Big Freeze 1993  (47:53) 

     During a horrendous spell of freezing temperatures, two bumbling plumbers enter a home for retired actors. In their quest to fix the plumbing in the bathroom, they encounter a myriad of eccentric characters and bizarre situations. Sykes actually struggled to get this film funded in the UK, so he made the film in Finland. It features Eric Sykes, Bob Hoskins, Donald Pleasence, Spike Milligan and Sir John Mills.

Alternate Laughter Free Audio Track For The Plank

    Each of the films, except The Big Freeze, has an audience laughter track, which are still very common in television comedies. I didn't find any of these to be particularly annoying or overbearing. However, with The Plank, you can choose to view the film with or without the presence of this laughter track. This option is available for The Plank only.

Image Gallery

    A collection of non-descript images, both from the actual films and some behind the scenes stills.

Eric Sykes Filmography

    Seven static and silent pages of interesting information relating to the career of Eric Sykes.

Story Information - DVD-ROM

    A seven page file in PDF format, which shows many official documents from Thames Television relating to the short films featured on this DVD.

Umbrella Propaganda

R4 vs R1

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

    I could not find any information relating to an R1 version of this, or any other collection of Eric Sykes' short films.


     The Eric Sykes Collection is an excellent DVD presentation of four of the short films he made for Thames Television, with the inclusion of The Big Freeze as an extra. Genuine fans of British comedy will want to add this to their DVD collections. Another bonus is that all the featured short films are suitable for family viewing.

    All things considered, the transfers are reasonably good.

    While not in abundance, the selection of extras should please the fans.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Friday, October 14, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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