Director Ken Annakin had scored a major hit in 1965 with the delightful comedy/adventure romp Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (originally titled Monte Carlo or Bust!) was a kind of belated follow-up and follows the same formula, albeit not quite so successfully. This time Annakin acted as both producer and director and once again he and Jack Davies co-wrote the screenplay.
This time the subject is not an air race but a motor rally in the 1920s. The earlier film spent a lot of time giving us the backstories of the various competitors while this one jumps pretty much straight into the action. As a result the characters are less developed. The style of comedy is slightly broader as well. This might possibly be due to the subject matter - a 1920s car race must have seemed like an obvious opportunity to throw in plenty of the slapstick comedy that had been such a feature of 1920s silent cinema. It may also be that by 1969 it was felt that audiences would demand much more frantic pacing.
Naturally there are plenty of fairly spectacular sequences combining action with comedy and Annakin, as you would expect, handles them with energy and zest. There’s a lot of obvious rear projection but on the whole these scenes hold up extremely well.
The major weakness as compared to Annakin’s earlier film has already been alluded to - we don’t get to learn enough about any of the characters to care very much about them. This makes the film a bit too reliant on fast-paced slapstick but even slapstick works better if we have sympathy for the characters.
With a running time of just over two hours this movie is also perhaps just a little too long, and it’s a little disjointed as well.
Terry-Thomas gives us a retread of his performance in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines but he’s so good at playing bounders you don’t mind. Eric Sykes as his reluctant underling who actually despises him is marvellous, as always. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are in top form in the kinds of roles they always relished. They also have the advantage the many insane and useless inventions with which Major Dawlish has equipped his car - these wacky inventions provide some of the film’s best visual moments. These four deliver the standout performances and the movie is at its best when they’re onscreen.
Houdini. Houdini is an excellent and extremely interesting movie and is good enough on its own to justify the purchase of the set. Making it even more tempting is the very reasonable price and the fact that the Blu-Ray transfers for both movies are pretty good - in fact very very good when you consider that this is really a budget set.
Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies fails to recapture the magic of Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines but while it’s far from being a great movie it’s reasonably enjoyable fluff. Terry-Thomas, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are the main drawcards here and they’re always worth watching. It’s probably not worth buying this one on its own but the Blu-Ray set pairing it with Houdini is definitely worth getting and if you look at Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies as a fairly entertaining bonus film the set becomes a very attractive proposition indeed.