Handheld b/w, a low-budget shoot but always terrific-looking in sharp focus. Not Lester’s first feature – why do you never hear about It’s Trad, Dad or Mouse on the Moon? DP Gilbert Taylor shot Dr. Strangelove the same year, Repulsion the following.
It has more of a story than most concert movies but much less of a story than most non-concert movies. The premise is that the guys catch a train to the city, have to rehearse and then film a TV appearance, but they keep wanting to run off and play and insult people.
As Paul’s clean grandfather, Wilfrid Brambell, known for playing comic character Albert Steptoe. As the two guys responsible for getting the boys through their day, Norman Rossington (Saturday Night and Sunday Morning) and TV writer/actor John Junkin. Uptight sweater-wearing TV director Victor Spinetti would return in Help! the following year.
I expected to like this a lot more, considering the last 1970’s Richard Lester star-studded period adaptation I watched. Adapted by the guy who wrote Octopussy and a few later Lester films, which starred some of the Musketeers, so I guess there were no hard feelings all around.
Logan’s Run star Michael York is our excitable young D’Artangnan, who teams with musketeers Oliver Reed (between The Devils and Tommy), Frank Finlay (his follow-up to Shaft In Africa) and Richard Chamberlain (Julie Christie’s husband in Petulia). The evil Cardinal Heston plans to undermine the monarchy by exposing Queen Geraldine Chaplin’s affair with Duke Simon Ward. Heston and his partner Faye Dunaway try to preserve evidence of the affair while the Musketeers ride to their presumed deaths trying to hide it. Doesn’t seem like the most noble use of their talents in service of the king, but whatever, it’s pretty fun. Christopher Lee and Spike Milligan were in there somewhere, too.
I was disappointed to not understand this one very well. I appreciated that a movie with a dull-as-dirt period-drama-sounding title turned out to be a post-apocalyptic absurdist comedy, but all the references to British places and culture flew over my uncultured American head, leaving me only with some Airplane-style puns and the welcome sight of Marty Feldman (in his first film, hence the “introducing” title card, though he was already a TV star with his own show).
I suppose the central characters, if there are any, are a young couple in love (Rita Tushingham of The Knack, with a great surname for comedy, and Richard Warwick of If…) and her parents, mother Mona Washbourne (of Billy Liar), who eventually turns into a (perhaps Dali-inspired) cupboard due to nuclear mutation, and father Arthur Lowe (the only actor I liked in The Ruling Class), who later turns into a parrot. Captain/Doctor Bules Martin (Michael Hordern, memorable as Jacob Marley in Scrooge) marries the girl after paying off her father, but she still only sleeps with Richard Warwick. Ralph Richardson (butler in The Fallen Idol) is Lord Fortram, who mutates into a bed sitting room (just a one-room apartment, I guess), where everybody gathers for the climax.
Some stuff I liked: Frank Thornton (Are You Being Served) is a newsman who wears the top third of a ragged suit and frames himself with a TV cutout. “I am the BBC, as you can see.” Also, the short-lived third world war is referred to as “the nuclear misunderstanding.” When the men think they’re being addressed by God, they sing “for he’s a jolly good fellow”.
The fourth movie I’ve seen with famed comedian Spike Milligan and I still don’t know who he is – the closest I got was recognizing which character he played in History of the World Part 1. Here he played “Mate,” whatever that means. Perhaps he’s the guy driving a wrecking ball with Dudley Moore.
Looking at the screen shots after the fact, it seems like a much more remarkable movie.
Watched for Shadowplay’s Film Club, where you can find an excellent summary and valuable comments by regular readers, plus less-valuable comments by myself.
A step down from Disney’s recent Robin Hood in Roger Miller music contributions and in novelty voice characterizations, but two steps up in every other respect. I think David didn’t want to set expectations too high for this one, so I was prepared for a middling semi-romance with clunky action bits, but the action was clunky on purpose (Robin’s not a young lad anymore), the romance is fully there, and I felt the whole thing came together beautifully.
Sets its tone in the first scene: aging, disillusionment, violence (King Richard has turned murderous tyrant), with a hint of the supernatural (a blind man throws an arrow from far too great a distance straight into Richard’s neck). Prince John (now King, and played by Ian Holm in his only scene) and the Sheriff (played by Robert Shaw and his scary eyes, one of his last films) are still in charge. Marian (Audrey Hepburn’s return from retirement) has become a nun. Friar Tuck (TV star Ronnie Barker), Will Scarlett (Denholm Elliott of Brimstone and Treacle) and Little John (Nicol Williamson, later Merlin in Excalibur) happily follow Robin’s renewed, somewhat obligatory-seeming, fight against the sheriff and eager new deputy Ranulf (Kenneth Haigh in cool leafy armor).
Sean Connery (right between James Bond and Time Bandits) and Richard “Dumbledore” Harris as King Richard are both excellent in scary, unpredictable ways. Whenever I thought the movie might drag, whether the final battle-of-champions evoked The Postman/Gladiator-type cheesefests or the plot seemed headed towards a Prince of Thieves action spectacle, it’d either take a left turn or just cruise through on charm, throwing out hints of humor when necessary. Whole movie is a treat, really, with one of the most moving endings I’ve seen in a while.
I like how the end credits disclaimed that “some of the characters and incidents portrayed and some of the names used herein are fictitious”… not really any kind of disclaimer at all.
Oops, wasn’t paying enough attention and will have to see this again. At least I determined that it’s worth seeing again. Julie Christie and George C Scott are a blast, and the editing is wonderfuly disturbing. Lot of relationship stuff in here, specifically about divorce. George is leaving his wife to feel free again, chasing Julie as his symbol of freedom. Julie is beaten almost to death at the end, I think by her husband, and ends up staying with him. So much for freedom. Ohhhhh, “cinematography by Nicolas Roeg” explains a lot.