A GREAT big, sprawling, ill-disciplined countercultural satire adapted by Terry Southern and Joe McGrath from Southern’s own novel, this is possibly the prime exponent of that genre’s disjointed vignette approach to storytelling. The high concept is got over in the opening minutes – cynical millionaire Guy Grand (Peter Sellers) and his young cohort (Ringo Starr) set out to mock various areas of society by using Grand’s vast wealth to bribe individuals into willfully belittling their own roles in life. And that’s it. Thus the film wavers between sketches on this slender theme which deliver (an on-train board meeting with Dennis Price, the amputation of the nose from a priceless painting as a mortified John Cleese looks on) and those that don‘t (the phrase ‘Laurence Harvey strips while reciting Hamlet’ is about as entertaining as the sketch it describes). By the time Yul Brynner and Christopher Lee are wheeled on for arbitrary cameos aboard a luxury liner that symbolises Britain (somehow) the air of self-importance is stifling. Nearly all the big, sprawling countercultural satires of the ’60s (see also Candy, How I Won the War, If…) punched above their weight to some degree, but The Magic Christian‘s episodic pomp, coupled with the predictability of its disparate scenes and its tendency to coast along on a wave of borrowed countercultural trappings, make it an easy film to watch, but a hard film to like.Read More
Posts Tagged With 'Peter Graves'
The definitive Sunday afternoon film, equally ideal for our patented ‘timing the Sunday roast by Sir Rich Ralphardson’s antics’ scheme, or a bit later in the day when it crops up on telly in the post-prandial plopped-on-the-pouffe slot. Sit back and lap up Sellers’ catnip quack, Pete and Dud’s pony and trap-piloting shifties with a thing about, er, ‘thing’, Wilfrid Lawson’s magnificently tenebrous butler to a just-about-bearably wimpish Mick Mucklebrass, Tony Hancock morosely plodding after all and sundry, and at the centre of it all, are John Mills and Rich Ralphardson as the tontine totterers, shambling from train wreck to graveside, the latter bewildering cabbies and serial killers alike with his constant stream of Potteresque blether. Is it really that good, though? Have the long years since we last properly sat down in front of it submerged the memory of the doubtless prevalent longeurs, leaving only the proud summits of the opening montage, the train crash and Peter Sellers going ‘Come in!’ poking gingerly above the surface of the amnemonic lagoon? Well, your guess is as good as ours (and probably rather less stupidly phrased to boot), but we’re willing to bet a strangler’s ransom it still comes up fresh as paint. Oh, and there’s no avoiding it with this one we’re afraid, so pardon us while we list rather alarmingly – Jeremy ‘Have Been Watching’ Lloyd, James ‘Double Kill’ Villiers, Graham ‘Cranes’ Stark, Nicholas ‘Goes to you, Clement’ Parsons, Willoughby ‘And Did Those Feet..?’ Goddard, Valentine ‘Just follow the humming’ Dyall, Leonard ‘Dog Ends’ Rossiter, Timothy ‘Mayfly and the Frog’ Bateson, Avis ‘Everybody Say Cheese’ Bunnage, Cicely ‘Buses’ Courtneidge, Peter ‘Not the Airplane! one’ Graves, Irene ‘Fruitbat’ Handl, The Late Great John ‘Relevance Factor’ Junkin, John ‘File It Under Fear’ Le Mesurier, Nanette ‘Contractual obligation’ Newman, Norman ‘People want big things!’ Rossington, Marianne ‘Temps’ Stone, Thorley ‘A real live Russian! They let you out, do they?’ Walters, André ‘Rillington’ Morell, The Temperance Seven, and the Bournemouth Strangler is played by the bloke who choreographed the meths drinkers in Theatre of Blood, in one of those perilously petty coincidences that warms our cockles but seems to freeze everyone else’s, judging by the silence that’s just descended on the room. Ho hey. ‘Slackly directed’, the critical nits aver, copying furiously from that last film guide to use that exact phrase. Well, Forbsy’s no Hitch, we’d be the first to admit, but then The Thirty-Nine Steps this manifestly ain’t. It’s a pitch-perfect Sunday afternoon film, a neglected genre of which certain gluepot hacks seem to have little knowledge. Not that we should really be surprised at that, mind. You can see the TV aerials too, but who bloody cares?Read More
A reasonable enough question for Peter ‘Airplane!’ Graves to ask, you might think, after a family picnic is somewhat spoilt by the annihilation of mankind – save for a handful of handily immune individuals, natch – after solar flares reduce them to piles of white powder, leaving only their clothes behind. Cue a gruelling slog from deserted town to deserted town, scavenging anything left lying about, with a particularly memorable Jaws-style shocker as Graves siphons petrol from what he believes to be the car of another hapless dustee.Read More
THIS BILLING, should you choose to accept it, contains gags only marginally less predictable than the entire sum of this well-worn, endlessly re-spun kitschathon, and accordingly will self-destruct in the time it takes to list the principal protagonists who seemed perpetually adept at persuading East European government security guards that they really were just a bunch of contract cleaners in overalls: PETER “AIRPLANE” GRAVES, MARTIN “SPACE 1999″ LANDAU, BARBARA “SPACE 1999 AS WELL” BAIN, GREG MORRIS, STEVEN HILL, BOB “VOICE ON TAPE” JOHNSON and LEONARD “CENSORS INDICATE” NIMOY.Read More