During my early years, the only comedy films I knew were Abbott & Costello, the Three Stooges, and Stan & Ollie. They were good at what they did, but they tended to be mostly about walking into walls, yelling at one another, and accidentally joining the Foreign Legion. In college, I discovered British comedy. And the laughs got considerably louder.
The first film I wandered into was The Green Man, starring Alistair Sim and Terry-Thomas. Sim played the mad bomber of London who, as he says, takes out those who desperately need taking out. Like foreign dictators visiting the UK to kick out the first ball at a soccer game. (Don’t kick the ball.) He started his career by bombing his headmaster.
Shortly afterward, I saw The Ladykillers. Alec Guinness leads a group of bankrobbers who operate out of a rental unit made available by a nice elderly lady. When she discovers what they’ve done, she insists they return the money, and they decide she will have to be done away with. But nobody volunteers for the job.
The St. Trinian’s films are also hilarious. Their headmistress (Sim again in a female role) explains that in most girls’ schools, the girls are told “to look out for the wicked old world. But here at St. Trinian’s, it’s the wicked old world that better look out.” In one of the films, a couple of the girls’ boyfriends are kidnapped by Middle East terrorists. An army unit is sent in to rescue them, but is driven off. Ultimately, they send in the girls.
There are numerous other brilliant films. Among them are School for Scoundrels, with Terry-Thomas; Dr. Strangelove, with Peters Sellers and George C. Scott; and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, with an all-star international cast and a fleet of planes from the 1920s.