Evelyn Waugh’s distinctly acerbic tone gets softened to its advantage in an adaptation of his between-the-wars newspaper satire. Michael Maloney is a little too docile, but very likable, as the countryside nature journalist who winds up covering a non-existent civil war as foreign correspondent in a small African state. Buffeted about, but getting the hang of things as he goes along, he’s Candide with a typewriter, rising thru misunderstanding, disinterest & incompetence; his own & his employers. ‘How To Succeed In Fleet Street Without Really Trying.’ The tone wobbles at first, with director Gavin Millar putting ‘quotes’ around his characters so we know when to laugh. But once Maloney meets up with Herbert Lom’s shady agent provocateur/businessman, things settle into a sort of Somerset Maugham as corrected by P. G. Wodehouse groove, and the smallest of touches turn quietly hilarious. (Even noisily so when ‘Begin the Beguine’ shows up as a new Revolutionary Anthem.) There’s tasty supporting players out on location in this surprisingly lux production, but it’s the likes of Denholm Elliot, Donald Pleasence & the great Michael Hordern who truly stand out in a series of small, eccentric turns back in Mother England. (A London Weekend TV Movie, so no proper poster. But a very cool book jacket worth clicking on for expansion.)
DOUBLE-BILL: If you can find it, Alan Ayckbourn’s A CHORUS OF DISAPPROVAL/’89 does something similar to Jeremy Irons as the new guy in a local amateur theatre company, but you'll need blinders to get around Michael Winner’s all-thumbs megging.