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Anthony Hope's classic tale gets a decidedly 'un-classic' treatment at the hands of Peter Sellers. Following the story somewhat, friends of the new King Rudolph of Ruritania fear for his life, and switch him with a look-a-like London cabby. Throw in two(!) lovely blondes, treachery, and a battle for life and honour, and enjoy life at its zaniest. Written by
Derek Picken <email@example.com>
I should probably begin this review by mentioning my familiarity of the source material - or rather, the lack of it. I have never read the novel, nor have I seen any of the previous film versions. Pretty much all I knew about "Zenda" before watching this movie was the basic premise. I also knew the story was originally serious in tone. But I was open to it being done in a comic fashion, because with stuff like mistaken identity, the premise did indeed have comic possibilities.
Sadly, everyone involved with this movie drops the ball. I'll start with Sellers. I have found him funny in other movies, but he simply isn't funny here. His performance here simply lacks energy and seems sluggish. I do know he was having health problems at this point in his life, and this may explain his lack of enthusiasm.
But even if Sellers was in top form here, it's unlikely he could have saved the movie. The movie is terribly directed - the slow-moving story feels as sluggish as Sellers. And when it comes to delivering the (very sporadic) comedy, there is a curious feel to it. The comedy feels like it's being directed by someone intentionally trying to make it as serious as possible. Though many of the gags would still be dead on arrival even with a top comedy director, since they are predictable and very familiar.
Judging by the ragged look of the old print Universal is currently using for the movie's television appearances, they are in no hurry to restore this movie. No wonder.
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