This whimsical slapstick comedy was based on Frank Muir and Denis Norden’s successful radio and TV series Whack-O!
This fully blown film version sought to cash in on the success of Jimmy Edwards’s cane-wielding headmaster but falls short of scholastic comedies like the St Trinian’s films or the adventures of Will Hay’s Dr Benjamin Twist.
An incompetent boarding school headmaster, Professor Jim Edwards (Edwards), devises a bizarre plot to raise the profile of Chiselbury School (according to the prospectus, an academy ‘for the sons of gentlefolk’) and thus save his job by passing off his bookie’s son (Melvyn Hayes) as a Middle Eastern prince.
Joining Edwards in the battle against the unruly children is the dithering deputy head, Pettigrew (Arthur Howard) – together fighting the ringleader of the students’ anti-caning revolt – Wendover (John Mitchell).
The headmaster’s madcap scheme is further complicated when an official from the Foreign Office arrives and announces that a real prince is to be placed under Edwards’s supervision – not due to the school’s lofty reputation, but because a gang of kidnappers are unlikely to look for the regal child there.
But the kidnappers do show up.
The Whacko formula isn’t nearly such whacking fun on the big screen as it was on TV. 30-minutes of schoolboy gags – neatly double-crossed by the largest lad of the lot – was fine. But multiply it by three, and the joke wore a little thin.
Professor Jim Edwards