Overly long, controversial comedy with plenty of tragedy mixed in, this was adapted by the playwright, Peter Barnes, for the screen and might have benefitted from some disinterested pruning. It is nevertheless a vigorous, and sometimes wildly funny, assault on classbound British mores.
Andrews, a peer, accidentally loses his life while performing what seems to be a nightly ritual: he dons long underwear, a tutu, and a Napoleonic hat, puts a silken noose around his neck, and dangles contentedly. Peter O'Toole, the family lunatic, gets the peerage and estate; manservant Lowe gets
30,000 pounds; the rest of the family gets stiffed. The formerly servile Lowe begins spouting communist slogans, swilling booze, and telling the family exactly what he thinks of them. O'Toole returns from a mental institution dressed as Jesus Christ; he spends many hours on a huge cross in the
living room and distributes wealth to the meek and downtrodden, infuriating the rest of the family. They decide they have only one means by which to rectify matters: have O'Toole sire a child, then toss him back into the looney bin so the family can assume control of the money by becoming the
unborn child's guardians.
Hardly a segment of British society comes out of this film unscathed: the public school system, Parliament, snobbery, religion, homosexuals, servants, the upper classes, and just about everything else that can be decried. It's caustic and funny, but often goes too far and stays too long in making
its points. O'Toole was nominated for an Oscar as the mad earl and bites off Barnes's speeches with Shavian diction. Lowe steals every scene he's in, while Sim's role as a doddering bishop is one of his best in a long career. A lot of money was spent on this movie, making it one of the
best-produced British films of the year. Interiors were done at Twickenham with locations shot in Buckinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Surrey, Hampshire, and London.
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- Released: 1972
- Rating: R
- Review: Overly long, controversial comedy with plenty of tragedy mixed in, this was adapted by the playwright, Peter Barnes, for the screen and might have benefitted from some disinterested pruning. It is nevertheless a vigorous, and sometimes wildly funny, assaul… (more)