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Ask a Policeman is a 1939 British comedy film directed by Marcel Varnel and starring Will Hay, Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt.

Turnbottom Round prides itself as the village without crime; there has not been an arrest recorded by the local police for years. Unfortunately, this is more to do with the inability of Sgt Dudfoot and his constables Albert Brown and Jerry Harbottle to so much as recognise a crime. With their jobs on the line, the trio attempt to stage a crime of their own, only to inadvertently uncover a smuggling ring and a headless horseman...

First film appearance of Desmond Llewelyn, who appears uncredited playing the Headless Horseman.

It was later remade as The Boys In Blue.

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Tropes:

  • Accidental Truth: Sgt. Dudfoot and his constables create fake evidence of a smuggling ring to report to the Chief Constable so they can keep their jobs. In doing so, the accidentally expose the existence of a real smuggling ring.
  • Actor Allusion: The first section of the film contains an in-joke about Will Hay's real-life career. In 1937 his radio show was "faded out" to make time for a broadcast by the Prime Minister. Hay was furious and vowed never to broadcast again. A popular outcry led by the Daily Express forced the BBC to apologize before Hay would go back on the air. When Dudfoot's broadcast ends the same way, he says, "The BBC always fade out the best items", and when threatened with dismissal he says, "If only we could get the Daily Express behind us . . . "
  • Broken-Window Warning: A note tied to a rock is thrown through the police station window. Upon unwrapping it, Sgt. Dudfoot finds it is a flyer from the local drapers and thinks this is some new aggressive advertising campaign. However, on turning it over, he finds a note scrawled on the back telling him to back off or face the consequences.
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  • Captain Crash: The Turnbottom Round constabulary as a whole, and Sgt. Dudfoot in particular. Over the course of the film, they wreck the Chief Constable's car, a milkman's motorbike, a mobile coffee stall, and a double-decker bus.
  • Car Meets House: When Dudfoot attempts the damage the Chief Constable's car so it will look like he's been in an accident, he starts the car, only to discover it is still in gear, and drives it straight through the window of Harbottle's shop.
  • Chained Heat: In an act of Self-Offense, Dudfoot, Brown and Harbottle wind up handcuffed to each other. After escaping from the cell, they remain cuffed together, which greatly hinders their ability to chase the smugglers.
  • The Door Slams You: While standing outside the garage where the Headless Horseman vanished, the three coppers are knocked over when the door swings open suddenly.
  • Dunking the Bomb: The police—who are now paranoid about bombs—find a mysterious ticking package down PC Harbottle's trousers. After briefly panicking, Sgt. Dudfoot thrust the package into a fire bucket. When it stops ticking, they pull it out and unwrap it, only to discover it is full of Swiss watches
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Squire and the Coastguard are only ever addressed by their job title. The Chief Constable's name is mentioned once, when Dudfoot reads it off his business card, but otherwise he is only referred to as Chief Constable.
  • Fresh Clue: In Devil's Cave, Brown finds a still smouldering cigarette butt at the mouth of one of the tunnels; telling him which way the smugglers went.
  • Had the Silly Thing in Reverse: Sgt. Dudfoot attempts to move the Chief's Constable's car. However, when he presses the starter, he discovers Brown had left it in gear as it lurches forward and through the window of Harbottle's shop.
  • Headless Horseman: The coastal village of Turnbotham Round is terrorised by a headless horseman. Unlike most examples this one more closely follows the Irish folktale.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: In order to pursue the smugglers, Dudfoot, Brown and Harbottle steal—in turn—a motorbike from a milkman, a mobile coffee stall, and double-decker bus. They crash all three vehicles.
  • Identical Grandson: The aged Constable Harbottle looks almost identical to his even more ancient father (both played by Moore Marriott).
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: Sgt. Dudfoot is being interviewed about Turnbottom Round's reputation as 'the village with no crime'. While the interviewer accepts that there may be no major crimes, he asks what about minor crimes, like drunkenness. Dudfoot claims there is no drunkenness in the village, but is immediately drowned out by extremely loud drunken singing from the street. Dudfoot tries to pass this off as the church choir practising. On being told that Constable Harbottle is in charge of traffic, the interviewer asks about traffic offences, like speeding. Dudfoot says there is no speeding in Turnbottom Round, but is drowned out by a car going past at 100 miles per hour. This time he says it is the doctor on his way to an emergency case.
  • Police Are Useless: Turnbottom Round prides itself as the village without crime; there has not been an arrest recorded by the local police for 10 years. Unfortunately, this is more to do with Sgt. Dudfoot and his constables Albert Brown and Jerry Harbottle being too incompetent, lazy, cowardly and corrupt to so much as recognise a crime, let alone stop one. Even when they attempt to fabricate a crime for their own benefit, it goes hilariously wrong.
  • The Precious, Precious Car: Sgt. Dudfoot wrecks the Chief Constable's car (i.e. his boss' car) while attempting to fake an accident to explain to the Chief Constable why he has been unconscious. (It Makes Sense in Context.)
  • Prophecies Rhyme All the Time: Not a prophecy as such, but Harbottle remembers an old poem about the Headless Horseman which supposedly contains vital information. Unfortunately, he can't recall the last line, which contains the information, and makes something up that makes no sense. When the characters eventually learn the real final line, it completely destroys the scansion of the poem.
    Sgt. Dudfoot: No wonder you couldn't remember it!
  • Refuge in Audacity: The smugglers place their guide light on top of the police station. And use the station cellar as a storehouse for their contraband.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: The smugglers use the local legend of the Headless Horseman and the Phantom Hearse to allow them to transport their smuggled goods from the beach to the garage while scaring away the locals.
  • Secret Underground Passage: A tunnel leads from Devil's Cave to the cellar of the police station, which the smugglers use to transport their contraband from the beach to the village.
  • Self-Offense: When cornered by the smugglers in the police station, Sgt. Dudfoot overturns the desk, smashing the lantern to the floor and plunging the room into darkness. Sounds off a massive struggle follow. When the lights come back on, Dudfoot, Brown and Harbottle are tangled up in a heap, and they have managed to handcuff themselves together.
  • Tap on the Head: When they are trying to arrest the Chief Constable for speeding (It Makes Sense in Context), Harbottle knocks him out by hitting him on the head with the speed limit sign.
  • Titled After the Song: The title comes from the popular music hall song "Ask a Policeman".


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