Monday, July 14, 2003


This is best approached as an artifact of its time. It doesn't hold up all that well, but I stuck with it and am glad to say that I've seen it. You'll be happier with it if you can get past any expectation of a coherent, linear plot, even though the movie does have the trappings of a fairly traditional narrative. Peter Sellers is Sir Guy Grand, a British millionaire who adopts a homeless hippie (Ringo Starr), making him heir to the Grand fortune. Starr's name, Youngman, helps give a Candide-like quality to the character who trips along passively with Sellers on adventure after adventure as they use money to tempt people to do stupid things. By about halfway through, the pre-Monty Python vaudeville mood does become infectious. The rest of the cast members mostly have cameos as they appear for their skits then vanish. Leonard Frey is a character named Lawrence Faggot; Laurence Harvey plays himself, doing a strip-teasing Hamlet on stage; John Cleese is an auction agent in one of the movie's funniest scenes. The next-to-last, and quite surreal, section of the film takes place on a cruise ship called the Magic Christian; Christopher Lee (as a vampire), Raquel Welch (as Priestess of the Whip), and Roman Polanski show up here. The finale has Sellers tempting dozens of quite respectable citizens into a huge vat of shit and piss into which he has thrown thousands of dollars (or pounds, I suppose). Also with Yul Brynner, Spike Milligan, and Graham Chapman. Starr winds up doing very little, even though he's on screen almost constantly. Overall, it's very hit-and-miss, and it certainly isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it does reflect the wild, "anything goes" attitude that infected popular culture for a few years.

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