The Mouse That Roared (1959) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • An impoverished backward nation declares a war on the United States of America, hoping to lose, but things don't go according to plan.

  • The Duchy of Grand Fenwick, the smallest country in the world, is nestled in the French Alps. Being as isolated as it is, its life is a throwback to olden days. It is a happy, peace-loving country. Its economy solely rests on export of its only wine, Pinot Grand Fenwick, to the US. When a California vintner starts producing and selling a knock-off of the Pinot Grand Fenwick at a lower price, the Grand Fenwick economy goes into a crisis situation, the country on the brink of bankruptcy. Three protests to the US go largely unanswered. Grand Fenwick's Prime Minister, Rupert of Mountjoy, believes the solution is to declare war on the US, and promptly lose the war in less than a day with no casualties on either side, after which the US, which it has historically done, will provide vast financial aide to rebuild the country. Grand Fenwick's monarch, the Grand Duchess Gloriana XII, ultimately supports this concept. The plan is to send an official declaration of war to the US, have a small army of approximately twenty sail from Marseilles to New York City, and the army immediately surrendering when they can't enter the US without visas anyway. Although seen as a hapless man, the person to lead the mission is Tully Bascombe, who inherited the roles of Grand Fenwick's head forest ranger, head field marshal and grand constable of the armed forces, which still uses longbows and arrows as their weapon. The Prime Minister and Duchess believe that even Tully cannot screw up losing the war. But things do not go according to plan, due largely to the US official receiving the declaration believing it to be a gag, and events happening in New York City the day the army arrives leading to the army having no one to surrender to. Things take a further turn when Tully believes that they can actually win the war by kidnapping Doctor Alfred Kokintz and his q-bomb - which is exponentially more deadly than the h-bomb - which he is developing for the US. This move by Tully leads to an all-out global crisis. In the process, they need to also kidnap Kokintz's daughter, Helen Kokintz, with who Tully falls in love, but who sees in Tully solely a criminal. Even the greatest diplomatic minds may not be able to figure a way out of this crisis, especially with Tully on the scene.

  • The tiny Duchy of Grand Fenwick, in the French Alps, is the smallest country of the world and its economy is supported by the exportation of their wine Pinot Grand Fenwick. When the producers from California fake Grand Fenwick's wine and sells a knock-off at a lower price, the country becomes bankrupt. The Prime Minister Count Rupert of Mountjoy sends three protests to the United States that are not answered. Then he proposes that Grand Fenwick declares war upon the United States and immediately surrender since the Americans historically support any defeated nation after war to rebuild the country. Grand Duchess Gloriana XII and the government supports the idea and the clumsy forest ranger Tully Bascombe is promoted to Field Marshal and sails to New York with a twenty-men army armed with bow and arrow. Meanwhile the American government is testing the "Q-Bomb", which is more powerful than any nuclear weapon and capable of destroying the world, and the New Yorkers are hidden in shelters as part of the drill. Tully and his men arrive in a deserted New York and accidentally stumble upon the bomb and its creator, Doctor Alfred Kokintz, and his gorgeous daughter Helen Kokintz and Tully abducts them together with a general and four police officers. Now Grand Fenwick government has a huge problem since many countries are offering their support to the tiny count to have the "Q-Bomb". What will they do?

  • The Duchy of Grand Fenwick decides that the only way to get out of their economic woes is to declare war on the United States, lose and accept foreign aid. They send an invasion force to New York (armed with longbows) which arrives during a nuclear drill that has cleared the streets. Wandering about to find someone to surrender to, they discover a scientist with a special ultimate weapon that can destroy the Earth. When they capture him and his bomb they are faced with a new possibility: What do you do when you win a war?

  • The best laid plans of mice and men ... A cold war satire emphasising the newly emerged American superpower's use of foreign aid to buy friends and keep then away from the USSR's influence. Peter Sellers, as the scheming Prime Minister of Grand Fenwick, plots with Peter Sellers, as the scheming Grand Duchess, to declare war on the USA, lose the war and get that foreign aid. Unfortunately, they forget to tell Peter Sellers, as Tully Bascombe, commander of their mediaeval army. This honourable man does his best for his country and, through a series of unbelievable circumstances (well, this is a comedy), to win the war. Now, who has to give aid to whom?



The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The Mouse that Roared

    The world's smallest nation, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, which lies on the Swiss-French border, is quietly and prosperously ruled by the Grand Duchess Gloriana XII (Peter Sellers), with the assistance of the Hereditary Prime Minister, Count Rupert of Mountjoy (Peter Sellers), the Hereditary Field Marshall and Grand Constable, Tully Bascombe (Peter Sellers) and the Leader of the Loyal Opposition, David Bentner (Leo McKern).

    Disaster strikes, however, when the Duchy's only export, its wine, Pinot Grand Fenwick, is undercut in the United States by a Californian copy, Pinot Grand Enwick. Faced with bankruptcy, and having had no reply to its protests, the Duchy decides to declare war on the United States, Mountjoy having reasoned that it will certainly lose and will then be magnificently rehabilitated by the generous, victorious Americans. A Declaration of War is duly sent, but is considered a press-room joke by its recipient in Washington.

    Tully Bascombe, his lieutenant Will Buckley (William Hartnell), and twenty soldiers, in chain mail and armed with longbows, including Roger (Timothy Bateson) and Cobbley (Monte Landis) and (Alan Gifford), are sent to invade the United States, making the first part of their journey by bus and then by tramp steamer, captained by Pedro (Harold Kasket), encountering, en route, the QEII (captain Stuart Saunders, second officer Ken Stanley), which they mistakenly attack.

    In New York, an air-raid exercise has closed the entire city, with the exception of the laboratory of Professor Alfred Kokintz (David Kossoff) at the New York Institute of Physics, where he and his daughter Helen (Jean Seberg) are working on the new Q-bomb: an air-raid warden (Wally Brown) tries to get them to take shelter, but the Professor shows him the Q-bomb - an active working model on a hair-trigger - which he must deactivate first. The Grand Fenwick party land, but can find no-one to surrender to: in Central Park, they encounter a decontamination squad, Mulligan (Richard Gatehouse) and O'Hara (George Margo), who believe the Fenwickians in their shiny mail are "men from Mars" invading the city: this rumour rapidly spreads through the crowds in the shelters. The Grand Fenwick party takes the decontamination squad's van, trying to reach the Arsenal, but instead end up at the Institute of Physics, where they take Prof. Kokintz, Helen and the Q-bomb captive.

    General Snippet (Macdonald Parke), in charge of the New York exercise, alerted by an army captain (Bill Edwards) of the spread of rumours of "men from Mars", arrives with four New York policemen (Bill Nagy): they are also taken captive. Leaving the Grand Fenwick flag flying from the New York customs shed, the Grand Fenwick party re-embarks and returns home. Prof. Kokintz persuades Helen to try and seduce Tully, to persuade him to allow her father to deactivate the Q-bomb, but Tully, seasick, is unreceptive. In France, the Americans cannot get anyone (ticket collector, Jacques Cey) to listen to them.

    Back in Grand Fenwick the whole country is excitedly preparing to welcome the American victors, and planning what to spend the money on: they are dumbfounded when Tully arrives with his prisoners and declares that Grand Fenwick won. The Q-bomb is taken to the dungeons, Prof. Kokintz and his daughter to the castle, and the General and policemen to the "Museum of Ancient Torture" before the policemen are also taken to comfortable quarters in the castle: the General, insisting on his exact rights under the Geneva Convention, is shown to a small, dim cell with a tin plate of food.

    The U.S. Secretary of Defense (Austin Wills) finally puts together the pieces and realizes that the United States has been defeated: he has to tell the President, persuade the Pentagon generals (Lionel Murton) that this is the only course, and then go to Grand Fenwick to surrender. Meanwhile Grand Fenwick by its possession of the Q-bomb has now become the most powerful nation on the planet, as explained by the BBC Announcer (Colin Gordon).

    In Grand Fenwick's parliament, messages of support arrive from numerous other countries - all offering also to take the Q-bomb. The British (Charles Clay), French (Henry de Bray) and Soviet (Guy Deghy) Ambassadors convene at the frontier, and Will Buckley makes the U.S. Secretary of Defense, arriving to discuss the U.S.'s surrender, wait also. In frustration, Mountjoy and Bentner, and their parties, all resign, leaving Tully as the new Prime Minister.

    Mountjoy and Bentner now decide the only course is to help the Americans to escape and take the Q-bomb with them: they release the General and policemen, and give them the Q-bomb, and they also persuade Helen to leave, but not before Tully has declared his love for her: Prof. Kokintz, being entertained by the Duchess on the harpsichord, cannot be found. Taking the Duchess' elderly car, the Americans drive away, but are pursued by Tully. The car stalls and has to be pushed over a hill-crest: it then runs away with the General and the Q-bomb on board, running into a haystack, which sets the Q-bomb into high alert mode: tossed from hand to hand, it is captured by Tully and returned to the Duchy.

    Tully and the U.S. Secretary of Defense now discuss the peace treaty terms; the Californian wine will be discontinued, Prof. Kokintz and Helen, who will now marry Tully, will remain in Grand Fenwick, and so will the Q-bomb: as the Duchess points out, any atomic war would destroy Grand Fenwick anyway, and the big nations have not succeeded in nuclear disarmament, so now it is time for a League of Little Nations to try.

    Prof. Kokintz, finally allowed to disarm the Q-bomb, drops it! It was a dud all along: or was it? The little white mouse that emerges from it may know.

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