AVAILABLE ON DVD
RUNNING TIME: 81 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
The Lyons are moving into a luxurious new home in London, but their landlord Mr. Hemingway refuses to sign the lease after a series of disasters. Rather than give up, the family asks if Hemingway can give them a week to convince them that the house is in safe hands. Hemingway agrees, but complications soon surface with not just more disasters but also Hemingway’s ultra-posh daughter Violet taking a shine to young Richard Lyon, and his slightly older sister Barbara falling for an arrogant singing cowboy star….
I had never heard of Life With The Lyons prior to setting out to obtain this film cheaply because it was a Hammer film, and even then wasn’t really looking forward to watching it. It was the title of a popular comedy radio show which ran from 1950 to 1961 starring a real-life family in the four main roles, and after the success of Hammer’s [these aren’t the only comedies the studio made, by the way] two movie spinoffs there was also a BBC TV series. I suppose I don’t really know what I expected, but Life With The Lyons turned out to be a solid sit-com-style comedy which moves at a fast pace and is often really funny. In fact, it’s the kind of family friendly, with something for all age groups, comedic film which isn’t made very often these days. Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels were stars from Hollywood’s silent days and are a bit too old for their roles here, but have great chemistry nonetheless. It’s Ben constant incompetence in every venture that he undertakes which provides most of the laughs, but every character has their moments to shine, from Barbara’s constant crying that she’ll die if her parents don’t do as she wants, to the destructive Violet who just terrifies poor Richard.
The humour is mostly simple slapstick, wordplay and unintentional mishaps and destruction. The first sequence has Richard knock somebody on the head and smash a window as he tries to carry his skis upstairs. Later on, Ben decides to build a fish pond in the back garden, ordering a plough and a cement mixer to be delivered, after which all sorts of cock-ups occur including the pump working in reverse and drying up the pond. I laughed most at Ben’s dodgy wiring which at one point causes the phone to ring through the chandelier. “Would someone answer the chandelier?” asks Bebe cheerfully. The headlong pace slows down a little towards the end and the singing cowboy outstays his welcome, while director Val Guest, in the first of quite a few generally good films he made for Hammer of differing genres, struggles to open out the cheap and cheerful action, but this is bright, very likeable stuff that really deserves to be better known and more widely seen. One external review and one internal review on the IMDB is pretty shocking really for a film I think many would enjoy.