For this 1975 Soviet TV adaptation of a farcical play that was first performed in 1892, director Viktor Titov seems to have held the style, basic premise, and setting to a higher level of importance than the exact details of Brandon Thomas' "Charley's Aunt." And that appears to have been a good move -- the film is hilarious.
As we're in England around the turn of the century, the whole thing becomes a kind of tribute to the entertainment and style of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. And the opening sequence that nearly places its comic star Aleksandr Kalyagin in scenes with Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Max Linder, Harold Lloyd, &c sets the tone perfectly for what is to come -- a wild, almost absurdist ride in the style of the great silent movies of the 1920s and 20s.
I've read that the cast and crew were allowed to improvise sequences and work in a party-like atmosphere during filing; that doesn't surprise me as it really seems to come through in the finished product. The performers are uniformly hilarious as well, especially Kalyagin as a supremely unladylike female impersonator and Oleg Shklovksy, who maintains an ever-funner level of complete, infuriated seriousness throughout. But for some reason the one who cracked me up the most was Valentin Gaft as the butler Brasset, who projects an inhumanly high level of deadpan not-giving-a-damn.
In short, simply hilarious from good slapstick and frenetic surrealism.
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