Review: Norbert Smith, A Life

DVD: Norbert Smith, A Life (1989)

Originally broadcast on 3rd November 1989, Norbert Smith, A Life is a ‘mockumentary’ starring Harry Enfield as the titular Norbert; an octogenarian actor, who while being interviewed by Melvyn Bragg, reminisces about his long and varied career, while showing clips of him in his acting roles.

Despite its lean 50 minute running time, Norbert Smith, A Life provided me with more belly laughs than many mainstream comedy movies which are over double its length.

With tongue placed firmly in cheek, it superbly parodies both entertainment documentaries and the British film industry, with Melvyn Bragg as the serious cornerstone for all the surrounding madness.

As each section played out I was making mental notes that this particular one was my favourite, only to be swapping that just minutes later as I found myself guffawing at the next parody.

The dour realism of 1960’s ‘ooop North’ movies is presented in a wonderfully written family scene in a Northern living room. A public information film about venereal disease has Norbert trying to impart information in the most polite way possible. A war movie in which Norbert is quite obviously channeling Richard Burton has him finding any excuse possible to drink alcohol during every shot, which is followed by a superb homage to one of Burton’s most famous television interviews. A scene from the fictitious ‘Carry on Banging’ even guest stars Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Connor and Jack Douglas.

All of these scenes, and more, are framed around an old and senile Norbert trying to recall his career, while his wife does her best to keep him under control.

I can’t recall ever having watched this before, which is strange as I’ve always enjoyed watching Harry Enfield. So it was an absolute treat to watch it on this DVD release.

Younger viewers may not always get all of the references due to the time in which it was made…when asked about favourite dance routines, Norbert replies about 3 men in white suits dancing to the lyrics “how do ‘do it all’ do it…”. If you get that reference, then you’re certainly in the right age range to get maximum enjoyment from this very funny show.

A great satire, which warrants multiple viewings so that you don’t miss any of the hilarious references which are constantly thrown at you.

Norbert Smith, A Life is released on 16th July 2018 and you can buy it by clicking HERE. ALL money raised by purchasing from Amazon via our website is given back to our listeners and followers in upcoming competition prizes. The more people buy, the bigger our prizes.

Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Simply Media.