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The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer (1970)

R  |   |  Comedy  |  23 July 1971 (Ireland)
7.2
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 383 users  
Reviews: 18 user | 10 critic

Fresh-faced young Michael Rimmer worms his way into an opinion poll company and is soon running the place. He uses this as a springboard to get into politics, and in the mini-skirted ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Peter Niss
...
Tom Hutchinson
Vanessa Howard ...
Patricia Cartwright
...
Ferret
James Cossins ...
Crodder
Roland Culver ...
Sir Eric Bentley
Dudley Foster ...
Federman
...
Colonel Moffat
Richard Pearson ...
Wilting
Harold Pinter ...
Steven Hench
...
Fairburn
...
Interviewer
Michael Barrington ...
Major Scott
...
Mr. Spimm
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Storyline

Fresh-faced young Michael Rimmer worms his way into an opinion poll company and is soon running the place. He uses this as a springboard to get into politics, and in the mini-skirted flared-trousered world of 1970 Britain starts to rise through the Tory ranks. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

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Comedy

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »
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Release Date:

23 July 1971 (Ireland)  »

Also Known As:

A gátlástalanság lovagja  »

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(Technicolor)
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The final film of Guy Middleton. See more »

Quotes

Michael Rimmer: Don't worry Tom, we'll supply the tears.
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User Reviews

Ahead of its time, yet too late.
23 April 2002 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

A mysterious, charismatic figure (possibly another incarnation of Cook's George Spiggot Devil character from 'Bedazzled') appears from nowhere and takes over a small advertising agency. Through a series of ruthless strategies (media manipulation, political chicanery, blackmail, bribery and murder) he attains huge public notoriety and rises to the heights of government and beyond.

With its amazing cast of contemporaneous British comedy actors and a script by Peter Cook, John Cleese and Graham Chapman, the film should have been a satirical classic. The fact that it isn't, and indeed has virtually disappeared, is mainly due to the very brilliance of its creators. The sketch-show dynamic and satiric insight with which they dominated television comedy and theatre revue does not translates well to the cinema. Here it appears as an unfocused and fragmented ramble.

Rather than create a set of rounded characters which might withstand big-screen scrutiny, Cook and company resort to what they know best - caricatures. Accurate caricatures though they are, these are not 'people' but conduits and Aunt Sallys for the film-maker's understandable exasperation.

Peter Cook never looked so urbane and strikingly handsome as Michael Rimmer: a charming manipulator whose every utterance is a covert announcement of his smoothly diabolical strategy. Cook plays the role like a kind of malevolent mannequin. Grinning and mechanical. It was a deliberate move on his part and quite brave. But the viewer soon craves for him to break cover, show a crack in the veneer, display some vulnerability to connect with. It never happens. Rimmer is no Richard III. Maybe that's the way Cook regarded such power-players: passionless shells of men with nothing but their ambition to drive them. Unfortunately, the film itself takes on these very aspects and becomes heartless and mechanical.

The script is also not quite funny enough. The intimidation of writing for the big screen seems to have severely compromised the talents of the writers. Many of the jokes are forced and frequently fall back on tits-and-arse sight-gags - an unhappy irony as the film is highly critical of the use of sex by advertisers to sell useless products. A severe case of "having your cake and eating it".

A lot of the minor players ham it up to grab laughs in that peculiarly loud, desperate, English rep-company manner. However, it is a truly wonderful thing to behold Peter Cook, Denholm Elliot and the great Harold Pinter (as a fantastically smarmy TV talk-show host) appearing in the same frame trying to out-smarm each other. It's a three way draw. Brilliant.

Yes, there are some good things. Kevin Billington has a nice eye for composition, but, perhaps understandably, he can't do a thing with the fractured narrative. Alex Thompson's camera-work is excellent and imparts a sense of real cinema. The film's insight into the cynical manipulation of the media by politicians seems even more prescient today. But ultimately, it all fails to gel.

Perhaps it came too late in the cycle of British satirical comedy to really get everyone's blood moving. Cleese and Chapman moved on rapidly to the ground-breaking surrealism of Monty Python, and David Frost, the film's co-producer, dived headlong into a lucrative career as a talk-show host and professional jet-setter. But Cook's hopes for becoming a major movie star were destroyed by the film's failure. Apart from sporadic periods of greatness (re-uniting with Dudley Moore etc), he basically drank himself to death over the next twenty-five years. A sad conclusion to a great comedian's life.

The film is worth seeing if for no other reason than to witness a snapshot of British comedy before it flew into a very different orbit.


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