Set in the Haiti of "Papa Doc" Duvalier, The Comedians tells the story of a sardonic Welsh hotel owner and his encroaching fatalism as he watches Haiti sink into barbarism and poverty. ... See full summary »
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The venomous and amoral wife of a wealthy architect tries, any way she can, to break up the blossoming romance between her husband and his new mistress; a good-natured young widow who holds a dark past.
Brian G. Hutton
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Set in the Haiti of "Papa Doc" Duvalier, The Comedians tells the story of a sardonic Welsh hotel owner and his encroaching fatalism as he watches Haiti sink into barbarism and poverty. Complications include his inability to sell the hotel so he can leave, a friendship with a rebel leader, some politically "charged" hotel guests, an affair with the German-born wife of a South American ambassador, and the manipulations of a British arms dealer who's in over his head. Written by
Max Chandler <email@example.com>
This is the first film where Richard Burton was paid more than his wife, Elizabeth Taylor. Burton got $750,000 while Taylor, the first actor to receive a $1 million fee for a single picture, settled for a mere half-a-million. See more »
In the last few shots in the movie, as the Character is leaving the airport, there is initially a departing Vickers VC10 airliner flying overhead from right to left, this changes to a close up, followed by a shot of the same airliner now flying into the distance - unfortunately this is different 4 engine Jetliner, probably a Boeing 707. See more »
Papa Doc allows us to study the theory of communism. If there were no communists at all, what help would he get from the United States?
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The comments by the reviewer from Dubai, UAE, are much to the point, also recognizing the subtle jibes to the actors' roles in previous films. That Graham Greene wrote both the book and the screenplay, and was on hand during the shooting in Dahomey (information from a brief trailer on the recent TCM showing), gives a depth and complexity to the film that remind one also of Bunuel and Tavernier, in whose hands ironic humor and deadly politics are inevitably a subtext.
Peter Glenville seems not to have been a prolific director, and even his handful of films are not well know to American audiences (possibly "Becket" is an exception, though it has not been replayed in years), but his few works stand out for their dramatic quality, literacy and superb casting. He favored several of the seasoned actors seen here (many Shakespearean trained), Guinness (Prisoner, Hotel Paradiso), Burton (Becket). Once again, when the points of the magic triangle of script, director and cast come together in balance, the result is a superior film (of course we cannot omit the cinematographer, as chosen by the director).
"Comedians" has an unfortunate title that may have contributed to its demise for a popular audience. Its blatant irony belongs in the category of films in which the political matrix is the setting for the revelation (or non-revelation) of character. To name some outstanding examples: "The Third Man," "Spy who came in from the Cold," "Day of the Jackal," "Night of the Iguana," "Wages of Fear."
In this film, the pacing and structure are subtly conceived: even though there is a lot of random killing depicted, the quiet exchange between Burton and Guinness during the latter's escape is the eye of the tornado, with all else raging around it. The young James Earl Jones and other black actors give strong support, and are a match for the sad ennui of Ustinov's diplomat. Taylor, who sports a German accent as Ustinov's wife (the only time she's been called upon to do so?), discharges her role creditably, due in no small part to her chemistry with Burton and to his personal gravitas.
In all, this film and the director Glenville really ought to be better known. It is a sad commentary that a movie made about dictators in 1967 could still be so prescient.
A four **** movie.
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