Convict 99 is directed by Marcel Varnel and collectively written by Jack Davis Jr, Marriott Edgar, Val Guest, Ralph Smart and Cyril Campion. It stars Will Hay, Moore Marriott, Graham Moffatt, Googie Withers, Peter Gawthorne, Basil Radford and Dennis Wyndham.
Dismissed from his position as headmaster at St. Michael's School, Dr. Benjamin Twist (Hay) applies for a job at another school. Inadvertently going into the wrong interview room, Twist finds himself offered the job because the interviewers think he is a John Benjamin, a tough Australian who has applied for the Warder's job at Blakedown Prison in Devon! Twist in charge of a prison? One that houses some of the toughest criminals in Britain! Oh no...
After the monster success of Oh, Mr. Porter! a few months previously, it was always going to be hard for Will Hay's next film to compete. And so it proved. While Convict 99 falls some way below the standard set by "Porter", some of the harsh reviews back on the film's release were misjudged. The prison setting seemed to bother many; more so the picture of prison life painted, with a few critics bizarrely thinking it was a satire on prison reform!
Convict 99 is a standard Will Hay/Gainsborough Pictures romp, it milks the mistaken identity theme for all its worth and slots in a few very funny set-pieces along the way. Re: Twist breaking rocks and losing his sledgehammer, the betting shenanigans and the break out of prison and break into the bank. The famed trio of Hay, Marriott and Moffatt don't get much time to interact together, which is disappointing, in fact Moffatt is under used, but Marriott's Jerry the Mole is a wonderful character and the wise old Marriott perks things up when the film begins to sag. Good character actors Gawthorne, Radford and Wyndham ensure the material doesn't fall flat, while Withers holds her end up well in a male dominated screenplay. 7/10
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