DIRECTOR: STANLEY DONEN
COUNTRY: ENGLAND 1967
CINEMATOGRAPHY: JUSTIN DEMPTER
MUSIC: DUDLEY MOORE
WRITERS: PETER COOK AND DUDLEY MOORE
CAST: Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Eleanor Bron, Raquel Welch
SUPER FEATURES: Great, and clever Faustian satire. One of the best written of them all.
English comedy has been around for a very long time. And unlike much of the American comedy styles the past 50 years, it translates well to the screen. Perhaps it is that English comedy appears to have to stand up to its massive literary tradition, whereas the American style is still searching for a character of its own.
In the 50's there were the Goons. After the Goons came Pete and Dud. And after them, comes Monty Python. And they have lasted. American comedians suffer terribly because the medium here is centered around the business end of it all.
After their college days, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, continued together and this time they went into films. Unlike the Goons, who were good actors but not very good writers, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were more disciplined in their writing, and they took their material into the film area. One of their first films, was Bedazzled, which is not a fantastic comedy by any means, but very few comedies stand up to the cleverness that this one seems to have.
It is a clever twist on the story of Faust, and though the film does not have the usual quantity of gags, it does have its very clever side in the writing and the way things are carried out. George Spiggott as the devil, spends his time doing his batch of trickery and bad deeds to everyone in his path. And tricking the young Stanley Moon into using up his seven wishes.
The story centers around a young fry cook who is in love with one of the waitresses he works with, but he is too shy to ask her out, or say anything. In appears Mr. Spiggott and Stanley is given a chance many times, but there is always a catch, as Stanley just isn't clever enough, or detailed enough about what he wants with his wishes. So one wish is wasted on a marriage, where the waitress is always with someone else. Or later, she is married to Stanley, or is it Peter, or the many other hints.
In between the devil performs many of his clever tricks, and he makes sure that Stanley sticks around. But Stanley is getting disenchanted with the whole thing, since he can never get the satisfaction out of the whole thing that he would like. Eventually, George comes to the end of the line, getting a certain number of souls in a contest with God, and he returns to St. Peter's place to reclaim his rightful spot next to God. Unfortunately for him, he fails the entrance examination, because he did a good deed by returning Stanley's soul to him, and felt good about it, which was recognized as a selfish motive.
The film ends as St. Peter is laughing, and the devil goes out and tries again to create as much hackling as he can come up with, so that God can, once again, test the faith of mankind. But this time, the devil is doing it because he is angry, not because it was a job that he was asked to do.
This incredibly sharp satire, written with a rapier tongue, and spoken just fast enough to make most of anyone not used to English comedy tied up, maintains its amazing standard, and reversed role psychology alive. The devil and his business associates, for example, are terribly worried about a couple of lunatics signing a peace treaty and sending his business into a disaster. The American thinking, all of a sudden is loud and clear.
In between are several characters that enliven the whole act. The seven deadly sins appear, with Raquel Welch doing the honors as Lust, who is married to Sloth.
This clever film never fails to deliver on its clever plans, and in the end, Stanley gets his just means. He has learned something which has made him less greedy, less gullible, and a more interesting person.
Peter Cook is excellent in his role as the self important devil, doing his duty so people can show God that they believe in him. Dudley Moore is good, until the film gets soppy and tired, when he can not maintain his seriousness, or abilities as an actor, which have never been that great anyway. He makes up for it by being sharp witted and fast when he has to, and this helps his abilities.
The film has stood up rather well almost thirty years, and its comedy values and thoughtful writing, seems today, so clever, and so well done. The late Peter Cook deserves some credit for his ability in writing, which has always been grossly underrated and not well known enough... he was one of the major satirists of this century
Funny film, where the ideas about God are twisted around cleverly. Funny send up of the old Faust story. Directed by Stanley Donen, who was well known for his funny film stories, where things always went wrong until the end. This film follows that path.
The other kudos should be given to Dudley Moore, though, who also wrote the music for this film, which is actually quite good.
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