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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

THE WRONG BOX (1966)

With the glorious exception of Ralph Richardson, hilarious as England’s most distinguished bore, everyone works too hard at being funny in this wild Victorian farce. The set-up, taken from a Robert Louis Stevenson novel, follows the machinations to get at a fortune pledged to the sole survivor of a school-boy ‘tontine,’ now whittled down to two elderly brothers (and their various relations) who play out a comic death watch. Megger Bryan Forbes loads up on stylish furnishings & William Morris wallpaper, but consistently keeps his camera too close to allow for comic breathing space, instead letting his starry cast go with nudge-nudge/wink-wink overplaying. Still, what a cast! Richardson, John Mills, Michael Caine, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, Peter Sellers (in a bad turn), the great Wilford Lawson (in a divine swansong) & Cicely Courtneidge (the Edith Evans of the Music Hall). Forbes also indulges his wife, Nanette Newman, a handsome gal, miscast as an ingénue. But the indulgent spirit works in both directions, so you’ll laugh, and not even mind seeing the same messed up chase-finale that co-authors Larry Gelbart & Burt Shevelove used in the year’s other farce, that classic of ancient Rome, Titus Maccius Plautus’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM/’66.*

DOUBLE-BILL: *In a critical flip-flop, BOX now looks somewhat over-praised and AFTHOTWTTF, somewhat under. Directed by Richard Lester in the chop-sloppy manner of his famous BEATLES pics, the film overcomes stylistic pratfalls with comic pratfalls by endearingly low Stateside jesters & tony Brits on holiday, gamboling away on Tony Walton's suburban Rome sets which are something of a marvel.

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