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Hoffman (1970)

GP | | Comedy | August 1971 (USA)
A businessman blackmails his attractive young secretary into spending a weekend with him. Though he's a creep throughout, he gradually emerges as a sympathetic character.



(screenplay) (as Ernest Gébler), (novel) (as Ernest Gébler)

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Credited cast:
Benjamin Hoffman
Miss Janet Smith
Ruth Dunning ...
Mrs. Mitchell
Tom Mitchell
David Lodge ...
Kay Hall
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Elizabeth Bayley
Karen Murtagh
Ron Taylor ...


A businessman blackmails his attractive young secretary into spending a weekend with him. Though he's a creep throughout, he gradually emerges as a sympathetic character. Written by Fred Dawson <phred@erols.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




GP | See all certifications »




Release Date:

August 1971 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Amor a la inglesa  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


Peter Sellers hated the film, feeling that his character was too close to his own actual personality. After failing to buy the film negative, so that he could re-shoot the film, he went into a period of depression about it. See more »


When Janet Smith is in bed, her left pajama leg is fully extended yet when she has gotten out of bed, it is pushed all the way up. See more »


Benjamin Hoffman: I remember the day my father introduced me to snails. "Hello, snails," I said, "How are you?" "Tres bien, merci," they said. "We who are about to be eaten salute you."
See more »


Referenced in Il comune senso del pudore (1976) See more »


If There Ever Is a Next Time
Music by Ron Grainer
Lyrics by Don Black
Sung by Matt Monro
See more »

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User Reviews

Here's To The Losers
5 November 2009 | by (Greenwich, CT United States) – See all my reviews

"Dr. Strangelove" is a fine movie, but I'd rather lose Peter Sellers's three legendary performances there than the first few seconds of his title role in "Hoffman", where he simply opens a door and stares at a young woman with succulent, lich-like longing.

The rest of "Hoffman" is nearly as good, so much so it's a surprise it hasn't been picked up for cult-movie status like some other lesser Sellers films have. Part of the problem, of course, is that "Hoffman" is a kind of transgressive pleasure.

Sellers plays Benjamin Hoffman, a middle-management guy who develops an office crush on the pretty-but-engaged Janet Smith (Sinéad Cusack). When Hoffman finds out Janet's fiancé has been stealing from their common employer, Hoffman invites Janet to his London pad for a weeklong stay that involves philosophy, creepy stares, pajama-clad standoffs, and the threat of sex if not the actual thing itself.

"Hope never dies in a man with a good dirty mind," Hoffman declares.

Director Alvin Rakoff and his team play up the spookiness of the assignation. They shoot Sellers like Christopher Lee in a Hammer Dracula film, his red-rimmed eyes staring blankly at Cusack. One scene of him inside an elevator in pursuit of her reminds me of Dracula awaiting sunset inside his coffin. He also sucks snails and rubs liniment on her bare neck, furthering the connection.

Not an easy comedy for pure laughs, "Hoffman" delivers humor more in the form of perverted menace, especially when Janet is reacting to his more over-the-top pronouncements. "Please make yourself look as though you want to be fertilized" is almost the first thing out of his mouth when Janet arrives, and the conversation goes downhill from there.

What makes "Hoffman" more affecting is the realness of Sellers' performance, the sense of watching a real person for once behind the mask Sellers so effortlessly employed. Benjamin Hoffman is a vampire or sorts, but one with a heart, who views his victim with compassion and sees his situation as a possible victory for "men who missed the boat but still need love".

The script by Ernest Gébler offers up many odd lines which rub some the wrong way and no doubt contribute to "Hoffman's" low reputation. A New York Times critic once inveighed against Hoffman's comment: "It's not only homosexuals who don't like women. Hardly anybody likes them." Of course, that's Hoffman's line, a guy who tells a woman he loves that women are just fallopian tubes with teeth. The fact he is so lost is part of the movie's comedy and part of its tragedy at the same time. Frankly, I also find the line hilarious.

There are groaner lines in "Hoffman", though, like when Hoffman tells Janet: "Why don't you stop stabbing me in the face with your doomed youth!" Huh? Give Cusack credit for providing such a resonant backstop to Seller's left-field banter, and giving her character the right amount of innocence and sex to make the whole thing work. Too much of one or the other, and it would fly off the rails.

"Hoffman" is probably not for everyone. It moves slowly, spends a lot of time with just two people in frame, and plays its comedy close to the vest. But for those who give it a chance, and especially those who adore Sellers going in, "Hoffman" is like a valentine wrapped inside a hand grenade just waiting to surprise you with a seriously fulfilling rumination on the riddle of love.

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