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.