Unsuccessful singing bullfighter Juan arrives in Barcelona to try his luck in a big town. He finally persuades a devious local impresario to book him, but only on the condition that Juan ...
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Vittorio De Sica
In this comedy, set during the Nazi occupation of France, Peter Sellers plays most major male parts, so he stars in nearly every scene, always bumbling in inspector Clouseau-style. As ... See full summary »
Unsuccessful singing bullfighter Juan arrives in Barcelona to try his luck in a big town. He finally persuades a devious local impresario to book him, but only on the condition that Juan first manages to spend an evening with Olimpia, a "shrewd merciless beauty" who seems effortlessly to collect apartments and Maserati sports cars while leaving a trail of broken hearts behind her. Juan approaches the challenge by pretending to her he is an emissary for a rich count. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
Peter Sellers was legendarily difficult during the making of this film, even falling out with Kenneth Griffith, one of his best friends. He was most hostile towards director Robert Parrish, and made determined efforts, not merely to undermine him, but to replace him as director. Until a short time before the film's release, it seemed that he would get a co-director credit. But eventually, Parrish got sole credit - some have unkindly suggested that Sellers waived his claim because he knew the film would be a critical and financial disaster (which it was). See more »
Olimpia has locked Pepe Gamazo out of his apartment. In the opening scene, Pepe chases her from the street in an attempt to reenter his apartment. Before he begins running, his long straight hair has a distinct part on the left side that exposes a large portion of his bare forehead. However, Olimpia beats him to the door. When Pepe reaches the apartment door, his hair is now windblown so that the part no longer shows (now resembling Moe of the Three Stooges). Yet when Olimpia looks through the peephole, his hair is neatly parted with a large portion of his forehead again visible. After she opens the door and pushes him into the elevator, he reverts back to the windblown look without parted hair. Later in another scene when Pepe knocks on the door, his hair is windblown with his forehead covered by his hair. Again, the next point of view Olimpia sees through the peephole is him with neatly parted hair and his forehead exposed. See more »
This is one of Peter Sellers' more forgotten efforts that only occasionally appears in documentaries and biographies so that it can be ritually slagged off before being left to gather dust once more. And yet I'm going to have to say that I quite like this little film.
I've seen it twice now, and I can't work out what's supposed to be so wrong with it. Granted, it's not perfect, but it's nowhere near as bad as it's made out to be. In fact, Juan Baustista, the singing matador, is probably one of Sellers' better acting roles (and that's saying something as he's bloody brilliant in almost everything), with every line either arousing sympathy or humour. Though Juan shouldn't be hugely likable - after all, the plot is about him trying to "conquer" a particular woman in three days so that he can get a singing contract at the local theatre - Sellers makes him so, with baleful glances and a genuine romantic quality. It's a subtle performance in many ways, and also, at times, a very funny one, Sellers displaying his usual comic flair. "I may look to you like a man who is waiting, but I can assure you that I am actually looking like a man who is *not* waiting. Mmm." Whether the Spanish accent is realistic I don't know, but it worked fine for me.
Britt Ekland co-stars as the focus of Juan's attentions, the vamp Olimpia. Sellers and Ekland were still married at the time and apparently filming was very tense as they were going through one of many rough patches in their relationship. However, this doesn't show on screen, and the two have a delightfully interesting chemistry. As for Britt as an actress in general, she does quite well here, and neither overacts nor underacts as she has a tendency to do in various other films I've seen her in (the otherwise marvellous Amicus anthology "Asylum", for instance).
There are actors of various nationalities on display, and as a result I knew few of them - there's a chap wearing a fez identical to the one he wore in "I'm All Right Jack", and the excitable Pepe is played by Boulting Brothers Welsh regular actor Kenneth Griffith, all but unrecognisable under thick specs and an even thicker Spanish accent. However, the always lovable Hattie Jacques has quite a substantial role as Britt's maid/housekeeper/minder, and it's interesting to see her in scenes opposite Peter Sellers, after her many years having been on radio with the other comedy legend Tony Hancock in "Hancock's Half Hour".
Though overall this is a very gentle and humorous film, there are some flaws. There seem to be several subplots going on at the beginning to do with men falling in and out of love with Olimpia, all of which get forgotten about once Sellers actually gets involved in the main plot line a whole half hour into the film, having spent his time prior to this wandering around a cafe ordering cheese sandwiches. There's a hideously OTT French camp bloke in the pervy hotel scene, who is, quite frankly, as irritating as a mosquito with asthma. And the film grinds to a halt about forty-five minutes in to make way for a bizarre five minute flamenco-dancing scene that drags interminably and has the scariest looking woman I've ever seen in a film, snarling and wracked with pain throughout, the dance itself making one's feet hurt just watching it. I bet her honeymoon was memorable. Her hubbie's back must have felt like murder in the morning. The things people do for love, eh? As for the whole singing blue matador bit, which was used to promote the film on posters, trailers, and merchandise (including the video and DVD), I have to ask - why? Sellers only actually goes blue about ten minutes from the end, so I'm not sure what the point of it was. There's also some dire sound syncing during his opera bit in the arena.
However, these niggles don't really detract from the film as a whole, which moves along quite nicely with some whimsical humour chucked in and a rather top notch Spanish musical score. It's even quite touching in places towards the end. Certainly worth a viewing, I'd say, even if nobody else thinks so.
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