Having just enjoyed Sellers and Woody in the raucous comic vamp of that pussycat thing I reviewed a few days ago, I decided to splurge on this hot number as well. This time a spy spoof, obviously, though very loosely, based on the Ian Fleming novel(s).
The first third of this film was quite difficult owing to the heavy reliance on Scottish debasement. I was always lost when Monty Python would go off on the Scots as well. I’m almost wholly without a clue about Scottish tradition or idiom so I just assume this stuff floored English audiences. David Niven is James Bond, the real deal, living a retired life of refined luxury aloof and isolated until a team of needy agents (including John Huston) arrive to light a fire under his ass.
What follows is really a pile of cameos strung together to create a coherent villain plot for the super agent to overcome. But, it really is mostly just a pile of fatuous slapstick sequences with recognizable faces. However, it is kind of sweetly fun. Especially any time they require some special effects. We mostly get toys on strings with sparklers shoved in, and there is something sort of adorable about asking an audience to please accept that as representative of something really impressive.
The best sequence is a reveal with Woody Allen, and possibly because I’m a fan of his comedy I can’t help but be biased. Also, as in the previously mentioned film, we get a slew of terrific ladies including Ursula again (as another 007 agent), and someone called Joanna Pettet in a long story-line of being the daughter of Matahari and James bond. A quick Peter O’Toole cameo and joke, and lots of bizarre sets and dances and entirely absurd riotous brawls, some of which include sea lions, and a Western film cowboy charge. Oh it attempts to madly top whatever concept you have for too much! One is left wondering how much psychedelic product was consumed at the writer’s table (IMDB says Joe Heller was one of the writers!). It said Jean-Paul Belmondo at the beginning and I watched for him throughout and he shows up for a big brawl near the end. OK he’s there. They weren’t just kidding.
So, are there any redeemable qualities here? It’s probably mostly interesting just to see so many of these actors 53 years ago, looking so baby-faced. The boys resisted too much sexy fantasy (though there’s a bit, even a smidgen of bondage) in lieu of a few robot gags and some very poorly done accents (though all of Sellers’ accents were excellent, it’s hard not to be entertained by him). So much of the movie comes off like a circus of clowning with a side of a marching band that it rather leaves one unable to fully grasp the experience.
It’s four bucks on Prime! Always better than a goddamned super-hero stinker.