Will Hay - Oh Mr Porter (DVD)

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Will Hay - Oh Mr Porter (DVD)

The Stationmaster of a derelict Irish halt catches gunrunners posing as ghosts!

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Review of "Will Hay - Oh Mr Porter (DVD)"

published 02/09/2017 | CelticSoulSister
Member since : 25/10/2009
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Thanks heartily for all the r/r/c to everyone. If it appears that I've not rated you, it most likely will be due to having used up all your reviews and am waiting for your next publication. Also I've disabled receiving alerts via email for a good reason.
Pro Undemanding, has nostalgic value, probably amusing in its day, cornily enjoyable
Cons The acting style, not really funny by today's standards
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"Vintage British 1930s comedy romp"

RELEASED: 1937, Cert. U

RUNNING TIME: Approx. 1hr 25mins

DIRECTOR: Marcel Varnel

SCREENPLAY: J O C Orton, Val Guest & Marriott Edgar

PRODUCER: Edward Black

MUSIC: Charles Williams


Will Hay as William Porter
Moore Marriott as Harbottle
Graham Moffatt as Albert



William Porter is a hapless, accident-prone wheel-tapper who to save embarrassment to his family and friends, is sent to work as a railway station master in a very remote part of Northern Ireland.

William travels to Ireland, meeting up with Harbottle and Albert who are his new co-workers and they relate stories to him of previous station masters who had all come to rather sticky ends. The locals in this tiny little place in Ireland quote sayings about ghosts, hauntings and ghoulies who inhabit the railway, whilst enjoying a pint or two in the village pub.

Bumbling his way through a whole series of disasters and being rather strict with Harbottle and Albert, William suddenly becomes aware that a serious crime is being committed.


Oh Mr Porter is one of these classic black and white comedy films from a bygone era which used to be shown a lot on TV when I was a child. At that time I found the film to be hilarious, but very many decades into the future – like now – I decided to give it another viewing to see if it still contained that element of magic which had made me laugh and fascinated me in childhood.

The first thing which struck me about Oh Mr Porter on my recent viewing, is how well it has transferred over to DVD, bearing in mind the film is now 81 years old! The second thing was the style of acting which back in my childhood days didn’t seem anything out of the ordinary, now comes across to me as something almost painful to listen to as it is done in that rather machine-gunfire mode which was the fashion during the 1930s…..very loud voices and words spoken almost at the speed of light!

The acting quality is good, but in order for you to appreciate it as such, I think a modern-day viewer needs to turn a deaf ear to the above-described ‘machine gun’ presentation and concentrate on things such as body language, facial expression plus other non-verbal qualities. If you can do that, then I think you might agree that within this parameter, the acting then can be deemed as merit-worthy – OK nowhere near up to Oscar standard, but this is a comedy film done in almost slapstick style whereby perhaps the storyline and the events contained within are to be the main things to focus upon.

The music is jaunty and playful, reminding me very much of that which is used in Tom & Jerry cartoons. It does suit the film, although it isn’t the kind of music anybody would consider using nowadays as an accompanying score.

The storyline of Oh Mr Porter is very easy to follow, but the humour has very much of the buffoon element to it with a touch of slapstick around the edges. I can’t say that at this point in my life it made me laugh in the slightest, but as said above I do clearly recall finding it hilarious each time I saw it on TV during my early childhood.

Although easy to understand and follow, the dialogue in Oh Mr Porter is actually quite convoluted, it being a very, very wordy film. Couple that with the machine-gun style of speech, this makes for a highly vocal film that does take a bit of concentrating on when it comes to following what is being said, but once you get used to the style plus this cramming as many words into a tiny space of time as is humanly possible, then it becomes much easier to comprehend and roll along with.

All these years which have passed did serve to make me forget the storyline, so I was surprised when a crime element is introduced at just past the halfway through point. Prior to that, it simply is a trio of men trying to get along together with William Porter messing this, that and the other up, plus listening to the eerie stories about the local railway told to him by his colleagues and the villagers.

There are some interesting sub-characters in Oh Mr Porter and I found these rather entertaining, they largely being made up of men from the local tiny village and their ghostly tales which they tell whilst they are drinking in the pub and it is interesting to see how the crooks, when they are introduced into the proceedings, have worked their crime around local superstition and folklore in order to carry off a heist.

Although I must say that I enjoyed Oh Mr Porter far more when I was a child than I did this time around, some 55 or so years on, the film is actually quite well-constructed and hangs together very neatly. It is the 1930s style of humour and acting which could put a lot of people off though and I do state that those things take a bit of getting used to. However, I was able to sit through it and although my recent viewing didn’t make me laugh, I was able to appreciate the quality of the film and its presentation, albeit far, far, far away from anything that would be considered as brilliant these days. It is innocently heartwarming though.

As to whether I’d recommend Oh Mr Porter, well that’s a difficult one simply because I very much doubt if anybody under the age of 60 or so would be able to relate to it due to the humour and acting styles, but it could appeal to connoisseurs of old films from whatever era. Looking at older people though, they may already have seen it several times and perhaps could tune into and up to a point find it relatable on a nostalgic level. Looking at my own sense of nostalgia, from the time this film was made up until the time I was born (a total of 18 years), ordinary day to day British life hadn’t changed all that much, so I can gain a little of a sense of the past from Oh Mr Porter.

My star rating? Well, that is even more difficult but I really must look at the film for what it is and take its era into account as far as merit is concerned. By modern-day standards I’d probably issue a mere two stars, but by 1930s standards, then it has to be four. However, although I enjoyed it in an odd sort of way, I do think it – if I live long enough – may be a couple of decades or so into the future before I’d decided to watch it again.

To close, it does have to be said that Oh Mr Porter could be classed as suitable family viewing perhaps over a Bank Holiday when many people like to watch something at home on TV which is totally undemanding, and this is a film which is completely suitable for very young children – they may even be able to appreciate the humour in it.


At the time of writing and on Amazon, you can pick up a used copy of the DVD of Oh Mr Porter for as little as £2.26, rising to a maximum of £9.68 and for a new copy, from £39.99 to £107.10. Standard delivery charges should apply.

Thanks for reading!

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Comments on this review

  • Mickie26 published 14/09/2017
    Fab review
  • jo-1976 published 08/09/2017
    Nicely done
  • CGholy published 08/09/2017
    lovely insight.
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Product Information : Will Hay - Oh Mr Porter (DVD)

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The Stationmaster of a derelict Irish halt catches gunrunners posing as ghosts!


Listed on Ciao since: 03/11/2005