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|Index||24 reviews in total|
I was lucky enough to discuss this film with David Frost in 2005 and it
is a film he is still (he was the producer) very proud of, citing it as
one of Peter Cook's best works.
The film was given a very limited release in 1970. I saw it in the Cosmo Cinema in Glasgow in 1970 and fell off my seat laughing - the first time I have ever done that in a cinema - and I was not the only one. The Cosmo by the way (now the Glasgow Film Theatre) was a specialist cinema which attracted intellectuals and serious film students, so they clearly saw the importance of this film from the word go and it is such a shame that Warner Brothers are unable to do the same and recognise this as an important historical film document.
The film disappeared and has only been shown on TV 3 times - originally shown on ITV in 1979 by various channels who usually used it to pad out their late night schedules - and the version I taped then runs about 8 minutes short. It has also been shown on Channel 5 twice and they have made less cuts, but there is still some material missing which is why it needs to be issued on DVD with care and by someone who knows the film well and understands its importance to fans of John Cleese, Peter Cook, Monty Python - and 60s British comedy.
Another perspective is that Michael Rimmer is essentially Tony Blair, so this film predicts presidential style UK politics and spin and contrasts it with old fashioned Labour thud and blunder with Harold Wilson lookalike George A Cooper in his best ever role.
This should be compulsory viewing for all political students and if you liked the "Yes Minister" TV series, chances are you will very much enjoy this.
Post Mortem Since I wrote the initial comment above, the DVD has been released complete with director commentary - and I still find this an incredibly funny film all these years later.
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.
Saw this wondrous film when it first came out in London. I was at
college and loved it immediately. It appealed to me cause it confirmed
many prejudices and worries about Brit politics: manipulation, polls,
It was way ahead of its time. Both funny and serious. The fact that it has not been available suggests that some of its points are too close to the truth for the 'establishment.'
I would love to see the scene again when the capsule is hidden in the hankie. He is meant to smash it which will cause a tear. It doesn't quite go as intended.
A brilliant film.
It is a real shame that this film has not been released on DVD or even
VHS. The remarkable thing about it is that even though it has been
aired so few times, its imagery is so immediately fresh in the mind,
from the bumbling assassination attempts in a JFK style by Arthur Lowe,
to the 'First British Gold Bar' extracted from the north sea.
This film is about manipulation and orchestration from the start to the end !! done with a very dry and British style sense of humour.
The manipulation and 'Spin' of the Political Party Broadcast filming - who could not forget the scene with the rotating countryside backdrop and tread mill - BRILLIANT!! The guile of a Prime Minister who offers the nation the right to decide on every issue -with the piles of paper work such referendums incurred - to the ultimate presidential / dictatorship power gained from the final referendum.
The film as many people have mentioned before may not have a plot, in fact it is more like a documentary at times, but it is wholly unimportant. Its content is a precise satire of the government and issues at the time of production - preceding the change to decimalization - entry into the EU and the discovery of oil in the North sea, the general feeling of social discontent and mistrust in Government that was brewing and what would almost prophetically occur several years later.
One possible reason for its lack of public viewing could be because Peter Cooks brilliant genius cut close to the bone, unashamedly attacking the political processes and media circuses that surround general elections and political manifesto.
Without any doubt if this film was ever released on DVD I would have to buy at least 3 copies.
If there was ever a point in history were spin doctor politics was defined - look no further than this film for it origins.
A monument to Peter Cook and a host of brilliant British comedy actors.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'The Rise & Rise Of Michael Rimmer', a witty and highly perceptive
British comedy produced by David Frost, was made in 1969, but a change
in management at Warner Bros./Seven Arts saw its release delayed by a
year, when it regrettably flopped. Among its many achievements was that
it accurately predicted a Tory general election win in 1970. The
enigmatic 'Michael Rimmer' ( Peter Cook ) is the new time-and-motion
man at Fairburn Polls. The staff are scared stiff at his relaxed
manner. The freeloading 'Ferret' ( a splendid performance by Arthur
Lowe ) is fired, but made to stay on without pay till all the money he
owes 'Fairburn' ( Dennis Price ) is recovered. Fairburn Polls expands,
along with Rimmer's ambition. He drifts into politics, standing for the
safe Tory seat of Budleigh Moor ( a reference to Cook's partner Dudley
He helps the Tories get into power not by coming up with exciting new policies ( he does not have a stance on any major political issue and has to rely on charm alone ), but by humiliating the Labour leader on national television. Eventually, he has the British Army stealing Swiss gold and using it to prop up the British economy, and murders Tory Prime Minister 'Tom Hutchison' ( Ronald Fraser ) by pushing him off an oil rig. He becomes Dictator of Britain not by force, but by submitting each major decision to a public vote, which the voters grow tired of.
Rimmer is amoral. He even chooses his wife-to-be - show-jumper 'Pat Cartwright' ( the beautiful Vanessa Howard ) - by opinion poll. Its been said that he was based on David Frost, but I think he could well be 'George Spiggot' from 'Bedazzled', making good on his threat to ruin the world. Cook is fabulous here. From the moment he enters the film to the accompaniment of John Cameron's excellent theme tune, you cannot take off your eyes off him. Rather selflessly, he gives all the really funny lines over to others. Making Rimmer into an overtly comic character would have hurt the film.
And what a supporting cast! John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Dudley Foster, Diana Coupland, Michael Bates, George A.Cooper ( as a thinly disguised Harold Wilson ), Denholm Elliott, Harold Pinter ( as T.V. interviewer 'Steven Hench' ), even a Ronnie Corbett cameo.
Director Kevin Billington co-wrote the script along with Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Peter Cook. It is full of sharp digs at the worlds of advertising, market research, public relations and politics. The newly-elected Tory Government decides to hold a 'crisis' meeting on the state of the economy - a lavish, open-air banquet in the grounds of a palatial country house! Rimmer reminds the P.M. of his promise to cut income tax and increase pensions, only to be told: "nobody expects us to do it! We normally say we are horrified, and blame it on the last lot!". The Enoch Powell affair is made fun of too; a retiring Tory M.P. ( Roland Culver ) makes a racially inflammatory speech so that the leader can sack him and so look good in the eyes of voters!
Funniest moment - Rimmer catching John Cleese's character practising ball-room dancing in his coffee break!
The film may have unquestionably dated ( Valerie Leon's man-hungry 'Tanya' seems to have wandered out of a 'Carry On' picture ), but many of its points are still valid. I personally regard it as one of the best British comedies ever made. Remember now - Throw Out Reactionary Yobbos!
This movie is an excellent political satire but it's equally a satire on the State of the Nation in 1970. This was a time when people in the UK really feared that the nation was doomed. In one way, the small advertising company to which Rimmer is sent as a 'time and motion' man symbolises Britain at the end of the 1960s. The place is falling down, the staff don't care, the management is flabby and complacent. Note the fire extinguishers dotted about marked up 'DO NOT USE AFTER 1958' - and yet there they are, still in use. The staff toilets are dirty and ill-maintained - the roll towel is broken, the doors do not lock. All in all, a dystopia that is not fit for purpose. It's hard for a contemporary audience to understand this fully, but don't forget that this film was released just three years before serious opinion in Britain asked the question 'Is this country ungovernable?' and there was dark talk of a possible military coup. A distant country now, nicely represented in this great movie.
I find it hard to believe that this film has not had a greater showing
on television than it has. I can only recall one showing on British TV
in the last few years and it definitely deserves more. This is not to
say it is a brilliant film, although I think it's pretty good, but it
really needs to be seen in the context of modern day politics. Its
still "bang on the nail" relevant and you can either be worried about
lack of progress in politics or society, or marvel at how far ahead of
its time it was.
The plot is a bit lacking in focus, sub-plots involving Rimmer's romance with his girlfriend, and the duplicity of his political partner are distracting and are really padding for a concept that isn't really film length. However, these are minor foibles in what I think is a well written political satire which is a must see for anyone who thinks modern politics boring this might just get you thinking.
And it's funny as well.
This film was shown recently on Channel 5 in the UK. Basically, a young official looking man with a clipboard, Michael Rimmer (Peter Cook) walks into a dead beat polling company - and begins to change it dramatically. Very soon, the company is a thrusting dynamic organisation - with Michael Rimmer as it's head. He is loved by everyone, and he can manipulate people easily. He then begins to move into politics, and rises very quickly up to Prime Minister. It is then that his true motives begin to appear - he wants to be President of Great Britain. Will he succeed? Of course, he's Michael Rimmer. Watch this film and be amazed. Don't be concerned if you find you rewind it and watch it all over again. It is superb.
Michael Rimmer (Cook) joins an opinion poll company in a mysterious
capacity, a silent and malevolent observer of what goes on. In this
he's not a million miles from Bedazzled's George Spiggott, but in 'The
Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer' the targets are clear - big business,
local government, the parliamentary parties, democracy itself.
As Rimmer gains more and more personal power, we see a Britain decaying at the seams in a sea of corruption - from the dim humbug makers with their sexy ad campaign to the would-be PM with planted questions at party conference. Supporting roles are judged well (Denholm Elliott, John Cleese, Arthur Lowe, Ronald Fraser in particular), while Cook himself looks the part, smirking and smart-suited, interfering in a cosy world of middle-aged execs and politics in need of a shake.
There's a lot going on here in a Britain stood still - and it makes for a very entertaining film.
This is a brilliant British political satire. Along with "Bedazzled" and "The Wrong Box", this must be rated with Peter Cook's best Work. The supporting cast is superb. I hope that it will be released on video one day soon. I would love to have a copy.
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