Sometimes great comedy is as perfect as an analogue watch. 1959's Too Many Crooks is an example, composed of scores of tiny ticking, perfect elements to make a precisely functioning whole. Perfectly timed performances, silly dialogue delivered at the right pace, absurd situations and characters deployed just the right way, and excellent casting.
You might say George Cole as pathetically inept thief Fingers and Terry-Thomas as unflappably callous rich man William Gordon head the cast but every member of this really ensemble piece is perfect. There's Snowdrop (Bernard Bresslaw), the slow witted wrestler turned burglar who says, "The way I see it is, we kidnapped the wrong woman," in the middle of everyone discussing what they're going to do now that they have the wrong woman. There's Angela (Rosalie Ashley), Fingers' girlfriend whom Gordon has little trouble recognising without her mask after a bumpy car ride acquainted him with features he apparently finds distinctive.
There's a lot implied rapidly in this movie, as when Gordon telling a reporter how he met his physically strong, ex-military wife and before long she was "thrusting me down the aisle."
"Thrusting you where?" says the reporter.
"Down the aisle."
And yet the whole point of this dialogue is actually to establish Gordon's wife was in the military.
And of course, George Cole as Fingers is great as always. Always saying "Don't get up!" when he returns to the hideout nonetheless not forestalling his comrades from all standing and pressing him into the corner. His disguises rarely work, his plans never work, but he remains earnest throughout. His scheme involving a hearse to transport the kidnap victim goes awry and when he comes home in another car he reassures Angela, "We changed hearses in midstream," as though this expression were commonly used to reassure people like "safe as houses."
Terry-Thomas is great, too, first in his utter ruthlessness and then as his bad day gets unbelievable worse and he finds himself explaining to a judge how he ran into a burning building to save not "Mummy" or "money" as onlookers overheard but his pet parrot "Bunny."
Twitter Sonnet #723
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