When English movie-makers get together to produce a comedy, they first throw caution to some wind or other in constructing an outlandish plot. Then they work meticulously over every minor character and every line of dialogue to provide a delightful counterpoint to the extravagances of the story. The result is more often than not complete hilarity.
In Brandy for the Parson, something went wrong. I'm still not sure what it was, but a picture that started with plot possibilities that looked as bright as (and quite similar to) those of Tight Little Island should not have begun to limp pathetically along on one joke before the first hour was up. The fault did not lie with the actors; they were newcomers to the game of British Comedy but they performed well and provided a refreshing change from the standard menagerie of J. Arthur Rank eccentrics.
The fault, as nearly as I can place it, was in the way the script made the characters think and plan. Any thinking or planning in a good English farce should be hasty and bumbling, and yet so surprisingly successful in its inept way that it cannot help but be funny. Here the characters schemed in the adolescent manner that you would expect in a Henry Aldrich radio program. In fact, the plot as it finally thrashed itself out was more on the American comedy plan than the English, with some completely believable people doing completely believable and often unfunny things.
There were moments of good clean farce, and a liberal enough dose of subtly amusing tidbits to make the picture enjoyable. Brandy for the Parson is not one of the really awful films that occasionally slip across the Atlantic, but for audiences spoiled by Alec Guinness' recent tours de force, it is bound to be somewhat of a disappointment.