The Mouse That Roared (1959)
User ReviewsReview this title
The story is about a miniscule European state, the duchy of Grand Fenwick, which sees a way out of bankruptcy by declaring war on the US (to be followed by a quick surrender, and rehabilitative aid from the generous victor). An invasion force, with 12th century chainmail and crossbows, is thereupon dispatched to New York. But by mistake, the commander captures the nuclear "Q-Bomb", along with its inventor and his beautiful daughter, and brings them back to Grand Fenwick.
Sellers plays three roles: Gloriana XII, the old reigning duchess (believe it or not); Baron Montjoy, the crafty prime minister; and Tully Bascomb, the inept army commander. For my money, the third role is the best. Absent any sort of disguise, except for a pair of glasses, Tully is the central character. The first scene of Grand Fenwick's part-time commander, and full-time gamekeeper, has him caught in a trap and unable to scare away the fox that just sits there looking at him. As the bumbling hero, he is funny in his own right, and we're all rooting for him to save the day at the end.
The one and only Sellers does a great job in all departments, the state of Grand Fenwick is expertly brought to the screen with a unique sense of humor, and this MOUSE still roars plenty loud even after forty some years. Four out of five stars.
This is a true classic, with one of the wittiest scripts ever written, and hilarious performances from a perfect cast.
It's not slapstick, which is perhaps why some people not acquainted with British humor (at least before Monty Python), have been turned off. It's also a bit sophisticated for children. It's a satire which relies for its laughs on an absurd plot, absurd dialogue, and hilariously absurd caricatures.
Although it's considered a harmless entertainment, 'The Mouse That Roared' is chock full of satiric jibes at the dirty politics, international relations, and paranoid culture of The Cold War- its just that the jokes are so quick and subtle that you might miss them if you blink (one of my favorite touches concerns a radio report of 'aliens'- actually the chain-mailed soldiers of Grand Fenwick- sighted in Central Park. Upon hearing the report amongst a crowd of shocked New Yorkers, one well-dressed, perfectly normal looking gent mutters about the supposed alien invasion: 'I knew it it HAD to come to this!' This is the filmmakers' fairly accurate portrayal of how far some Americans had descended, by this time, into Atomic, Cold War and Space-Crazed paranoia).
It should be said that the diplomatic relations between America and the World, as portrayed in this film, are even MORE RELEVANT now than they were during the Cold War; except that the American statesmen seem so virtuous and well-meaning in comparison to some of our current ones. Rent it and you'll see what I mean.
This is also, all things considered, probably the best Peter Sellers vehicle produced in Britain- all the rest, of varying quality, were much shorter on laughs (also of note, however, are 'The Naked Truth' and 'Only Two Can Play'). Tully Bascombe is not an outrageous or demonstrative character like Inspector Clouseau. Instead, Sellers takes a fairly normal, if a bit pathetic, Everyman and manages to make him quite funny in nearly every scene. And as the Grand Duchess he is absolutely hilarious- it's impossible to watch this performance for a moment without laughing.
As someone who is very well acquainted with British film comedies, I can say without hesitation that this is one of the very best, even in a decade which produced 'The Lavender Hill Mob' and 'The Ladykillers' (directed by Alex MacKendrick, who was a cousin to Roger macDougall, the ingenious screenwriter of 'Mouse That Roared.' Even if the film's plot and dialogue were not so consistently funny, its undoubted charm, and its magnificent triple performance by Sellers, are more than worth the price of rental.
This is a funny and entertaining comedy with Peter Sellers as a real showman playing various characters . As Sellers acting as the scheming Prime Minister of Grand Fenwick, as the scheming Grand Duchess and as Tully Bascombe, commander of their medieval army . Sellers made this film in part as a means of emulating his intimate actor , Alec Guinness, by playing multiple roles in ¨Kind Hearts and Coronets¨ . Picture is a vehicle Peter Sellers , he's an authentic comic and real farceur . It's a pretty amusing farce with the master comic Sellers who displays efficiently his abilities. If you like Sellers's crazy interpretation ,you will most definitely enjoy this one . Colorful cinematography by John Wilcox , filmed in studios and on location as Marseilles and New York harbor sequences were filmed in Southampton, UK , the presence of the Queen Elizabeth ocean liner there was a lucky coincidence. The New York invasion sequence was filmed in Manhattan on a Sunday morning, accounting for the city's empty streets and good sets by production designer Geoffrey Drake . Atmospheric musical score by by Edwin Astley , among the musical quotations used in the film were excerpts from Felix Mendelssohn's "Hebrides Overture", "Rule Britannia", "A Life on the Ocean Waves", "Frankie and Johnnie", and a number of American marches . It is followed by a sequel ¨The mouse on the moon¨.
This well-edited motion picture is compellingly directed by Jack Arnold in his best foray into the comedy genre. He reigns supreme as one of the greatest filmmakers of 50s science , achieving an important cult popularity with classics as "The Creature from the Black Lagoon," and its follow-up titled "Revenge of the Creature" that was a nice sequel . "Tarantula" was likewise a lot of amusement and of course "The Incredible Shrinking Man" attained his greatest enduring cult popularity , it's a thought-provoking and impressive classic that's lost none of its power throughout the years . Arnold's final two genre entries were the interesting "Monster on the Campus" and the outlandish "The Space Children¨ . In addition to his film work, Arnold also directed episodes of such TV shows .
Done when Peter Sellers was in his "fat boy" period, this well cut little movie has to be placed in context in order to be appreciated fully. 40 years ago the world was quite different, and this movie reminds you of it. See something totally different from the same period, like Rear Window by Hitchcock to get you in the spirit of the times.
A tiny, backwards nation on France's Mediterranean coast has no way of moving forward economically. So, the queen and prime minister (both played by Sellers) make a decision: the country will declare war on the United States, lose, and collect foreign aid. There's just one problem: when they arrive in New York, there's no one around - the threat of nuclear annihilation has driven everyone into hiding. The army decides that this calls for drastic measures - with hilarious results.
Some people might say: "If you've seen one zany comedy, you've seen 'em all." Be that as it may, you've still gotta see "TMTR". It's just so funny. And one scene that's likely to open any teenage boy's eyes is when Peter Sellers walks into Jean Seberg's room and she's...well, I won't spoil it for you, but I will assert that it seems like it would have been risqué for 1959. Classic.
Yet there is something very gentle and charming that moves this film along. I suppose that little something could very well be that the "bottom line" for the tiny country was world peace... Not a bad concept.
Tully Bascombe, is asked to lead the invading force of about twenty soldiers, but not having its own air force, they must resort to take a French ship to New York, which happens to be deserted at the moment they disembark because of a drill being performed in the city. The force led by Bascombe ends up in Professor Kokintz lab, where he, and his daughter, who is his assistant, are taken prisoners when they mistake Kokintz's experiment with a bomb. The men, in triumph, take the same ship back to Fenwick.
This delicious fable, directed by Jack Arnold, is a satire on how even small person can stand to bigger and powerful ones and make a point while carrying on the quest for respect and acceptance. The film lives thanks to the wonderful acting of Peter Sellers, who plays three different roles and steals the picture with his amazing take on all the characters. He reminds us of another British actor, Alec Guinness, who also played multiple characters in "Kind Hearts and Coronets".
Not having seen the film in many years, we found the DVD transfer quite enjoyable and it still holds quite an impact thanks to Peter Sellers and the rest of the cast and the inspired direction of Jack Arnold.
It's a great concept, with two soldiers fighting over which one is going to get the Empire State Building ("I saw it first. It's mine."), and a display for the hostages on duchy soil that includes the orchestra playing "Frankie and Johnnie." Sellers' roles are that of Gloriana XII, the reigning duchess, Baron Montjoy, the prime minister, and Tully Bascomb, the shy, unwilling army commander who falls in love with the inventor's daughter (Jean Seberg). He creates three completely different characters, all totally believable.
Jean Seberg, who came to such a tragic end, is exquisitely beautiful but possibly one of the worst actresses ever to hit the screen. It's hard to believe someone gave her Joan of Arc - she could barely get through this. I remember her being much better in "Moment to Moment" and "Airport" and of course, she had a huge hit with "Breathless." Here, up against the talents of Sellers, she's just saying words with false emotion. However, she's so beautiful, you can't take your eyes off of her, so she certainly makes a successful object of Tully's affections.
All in all, a wonderful farce with a serious undertone. Highly recommended.
This movie is very interesting because Peter Sellars appears in the movie in many different roles (apparently the gene pool in Grand Fenwick is rather limited)--ranging from the hero of the story, Tully Bascombe to the conniving prime minister to even the queen! It reminds me very much of the Alec Guinness film KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS, in which Guinness played multiple roles.
The down side is that occasionally the plot lags and becomes a bit too silly. However, considering the risks they take and the overall weirdness and how funny the movie is in general, I think these lags can easily be over looked.
This movie had a sequel, MOUSE ON THE MOON, about the space race. I didn't particularly care for that--it was very silly but the magic just wasn't there.
A dinky European kingdom needs money, so it decides to send a group of chain-mail armored soldiers, armed with crossbows, on a boat the New York City with the idea that the soldiers would fight with the United States and lose, getting a heap of aid money as a result the way Western Europe did. But the residents of New York City happen to be hiding under the streets as part of a nuclear-attack drill, with only a few people above the streets, scuttling the original plan. On top of that, American scientists have invented a "Q-bomb" which can destroy most of America, and it falls into the invaders' hands. What to do?
The story, visuals, and acting are quite humorous, and the movie manages to skewer its targets. Definitely the better of the Cold War movie satires.
The tiny Duchy of Fenwick founded by a British lord is buried deep somewhere in the Swiss Alps and it's the only spot in the geography of Switzerland where English is the primary language. Nothing much has changed since the 14th century there. In fact a lot of the natives look very much like Peter Sellers because Sir Roger Fenwick more than George Washington who by all accounts shot blanks was truly the father of his country. In fact if genetic science is true a whole lot of inbreeding should have made the populace look like the Deliverance cast.
Instead several look like Peter Sellers and Sellers does an incredible job playing the Grand Duchess, the Prime Minister, and the Field Marshal of Fenwick. Sellers is magnificent in all three roles and all three roles are distinct characters, he's not just doing variations on himself.
Fenwick has a one crop economy, its special blended wine and some California outfit like Gallo is putting out an ersatz imitation and the economy is going to tank. The solution declare war on the USA and apply for the foreign aid that they missed after World War II when so many countries got it from Uncle Sam.
Field Marshal Sellers puts together a Fenwick Army of about two dozen or so and they take a French freighter from Marseilles and invade America. They are armed with the latest state of the art weaponry and uniforms from the 14th century, longbows and chain mail armor. And through a wild combination of circumstances they capture the ultimate weapon the Q Bomb and its inventor David Kossoff and his daughter Jean Seberg and take it back to Fenwick where Fenwick assumes status of a superpower.
I have to make mention of William Hartnell who spent more times in the British barracks as a tough sergeant major that he should have qualified for veteran's benefits. He takes that same character he perfected and transforms it to medieval times. Hartnell is good, he has to be because Field Marshal Sellers isn't exactly the most military of men.
I do so love the recreation of the Duchy of Fenwick, the makers of this film actually anticipated some kind of Renaissance Fair that later caught on and have become so popular.
With satire that holds up so well today, The Mouse That Roared can be seen and enjoyed for centuries into the future.
"The Mouse That Roared" is a comedy with a hilarious satire to the Cold War. Peter Sellers has an amazing performance in different roles, since the inhabitants have the same family tree. Most of the situations are funny and the film is funny since the very beginning with a Columbia logo joke with a mouse on the pedestal. This mouse will appear again in the very end. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "O Rato Que Ruge" ("The Mouse That Roars")
Peter Sellers, brilliant as always - plays three roles (including a Duchess) as the smallest country in the world decides to declare war on the US, because a California company is imitating the prize wine of Grand Fenwick. Their express intent of losing the war instantly, and then get rebuilding funds from the US, as the Germans and Japanese did after WWII. But through a series of slightly creaky co-incidences, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick ends up winning, not losing.
A genial and funny film, with some witty things to say about global politics, but also just a touch dopey at times.
The movie features Peter Sellers in an early role. He plays three different characters in this movie, just the way he always liked it, including one female character. Sellers always had the power to play several different characters in the same movie, just as convincing and also let them convincingly interact with each other. Something other comedians impersonate but never succeeded at it as good as Peter Sellers. In a way it really is Sellers that makes this movie work. I can't imaging how this movie would had been without him. The answer is probably bad, very, very bad.
For "The Mouse That Roared" is far from a good or clever comedy. It instead is a simple and silly one. The story is incredibly simple and the comical premise of the movie gets underused. It relies too heavily on its silly comical situations and silly characters, rather than its story or wittiness.
The idea of the movie sounds really promising. Having a little bankrupt country, somewhere in the French Alps, who's still living somewhere in the 14th century, declaring war on 'modern' America, in the hope that they will loose, so they will receive foreign aid. They head off to New York, with a couple of longbow-men. What they don't know is that New York is abandoned due to a nuclear weapon test. To everybody's surprise they succeed in capturing a new super-bomb and take some hostages with them back to Grand Fenwick, making them the victorious party of the war, to their own government's dismay.
The movie is obviously a satire of the Cold War and the story also shows some indirect references to the later and inferior movie "The Producers (1968)".
However not all comical potential gets fully taken advantage off. The invasion of New York and the cultural difference between the two completely different worlds, could had been used better, to full comical potential. The movie is very short and that shows in the movie and its story- and its build up. It's filled with missed opportunities and not well enough developed comical situations. It makes "The Mouse That Roared" a sort of a lacking comedy, that could and should had been great but just isn't.
Surely the movie entertains and some of the absurd moments are hilarious, so it still in its core remains a movie that is worth watching for a couple of laughs.
Weirdest thing about the movie is that it is directed by Jack Arnold. A man who in the early '50's mostly got fame for directing some (classic) B-monster movies and science-fiction. It was like he was thinking; Hey the '50's are almost over, lets find another genre to direct in. That's mostly how "The Mouse That Roared" feels; a comedy experiment from a director who wasn't fully comfortable with the genre.
Oh and by the way; Jean Seberg can't act! Highly annoying and distracting from the story.
See if for its silliness and an early Peter Sellers, in good form.
There aren't really a lot of belly laughs in this one for me.... but nonetheless it's always watchable. Sellars is great in all 3 roles, really a bit of a case study in his technique. As the Grand Duchess Gloriana, he's the image of a strong woman. Her countrymen sometimes think she's just a fool, but she knows more than Mountjoy and Buckley in some ways. My favorite scene with her is when she's on the harpsichord and singing along. His count Rupert is a good example of the Sellars villain, in this case a very self-disciplined man who looks down on absolutely everyone else in the world. Tully Bascombe is a bit of a loser and a nerd, who everyone (again) thinks is a fool but who actually knows how to seize an opportunity when he sees it, whether it's a chance to conquer the USA or Jean Seberg. Speaking of Seberg, she is just entrancing in this film, though her character has little of substance to do.
The film was directed by Jack Arnold, more famous for his 50s monster films including "Creature from the Black Lagoon" and his later lagoon adventures with Gilligan and the Skipper. In the 60s Arnold parlayed his success with Gilligan into this film and several films with Bob Hope. This is the jewel of the bunch as far as what I've seen, probably Arnold's best film after he left Universal.
Recommended to fans of political humor and Peter Sellars.
Then there is the brilliant insight of the Duchy's government: the best thing that can happen to a country is to lose a war against the USA. Europeans with a historical perspective will know what he is talking about; and maybe, if the Vietnamese had known this, a lot of trouble would have been avoided. Just kidding...or maybe not.
The third reason is the concept of a band of warriors with chain-mail and crossbows invading Manhattan. I have a tendency to root for the underdog. Granted, it would have been somewhat easier in 1959, but still...
Once the invasion is over, there are no more great ideas in this movie, but there is plenty to keep one interested. Watch out for the line: "My woman...and my bomb!" (as I remember it.) And don't miss the very last scene.
This movie combines the subject matter of Dr. Strangelove with the understated humor of Kind Hearts and Coronets, and it is interesting that these 3 movies have another feature in common: an English actor playing multiple roles (Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts, Peter Sellers in the others). My guess is that people who like Kind Hearts and Coronets will also like this movie.
Yes, that's Peter Sellers making what amounted to his debut as an over-the-title star, playing not one but three roles. First, he's Count Rupert Mountjoy, prime minister of the tiny nation of Grand Fenwick, who hatches the scheme of declaring war on the United States in order to quickly surrender and reap Marshall Plan-style aid. Then he's Tully Bascombe, the nearsighted leader of the Fenwick expeditionary force, who stumbles upon a weapon to force an American surrender. Finally, he's the Grand Duchess Gloriana, ruler of Grand Fenwick and very keen on war so long as no one gets hurt.
With that premise, and Sellers in the driver's seat, you expect more than "Mouse That Roared" delivers. Not that it's bad, or unentertaining. But after a rousing opening 20 minutes spent basking in Fenwick's goofy ambiance and establishing the daring plot, the film loses steam; first moving the action to an unconvincing Manhattan setting, then inserting a romantic subplot between Tully and an American girl (Jean Seberg) which features neither actor to good effect. The comedy is never sharp, but over time it becomes forced, recovering a bit only at the end.
It's a shame because the premise, as said, offers much, and director Jack Arnold, while no Kubrick, seems to appreciate both Sellers' gift for light comedy and the kind of film which suits that best. At times, especially with some inspired breaks from the action, "The Mouse That Roared" feels more like an Ealing comedy than the Ealing comedy Sellers actually made four years before, the far darker "Ladykillers."
"Mouse" has an edge to it, regarding the folly of mutually assured destruction and American hegemony, yet it manages to couch this very cleverly by emphasizing how essentially good the U.S. really is. You try selling the idea of a film showcasing a successful sneak attack against New York, in which the attackers are presented as the good guys. Yet "Mouse That Roared" was a monster hit, and for that Arnold and his team deserve credit.
"Only an imbecile could have won this war, and he did!" complains Mountjoy of Bascombe, seeing no good in holding America hostage with a football-shaped explosive device 100 times more powerful than an H-Bomb.
Sellers is distinctive if not a laugh magnet in his three roles, but the film suffers from poor supporting work around him. Except for Leo McKern, playing Mountjoy's scheming ally, no one distinguishes him- or herself around Sellers, and a couple of key performances are gratingly bad. The humor of the Fenwickians being mistaken as spacemen by Manhattanites is beaten to the ground, as is the "comedy" of Tully's gang peppering the QEII with arrows as it passes them on the ocean.
History favors the big battalions, but comedy loves the underdog. Here you are presented with a vehicle for an underdog who would prove every bit as worthy of our favor as Chaplin or Keaton, though it would take better films to make that point.
The irony that it could be a good thing to be defeated by the U.S. was a concept that stayed in the public consciousness for many years. If given a chance, America did try to provide aid to many countries it went to war with, or simply poorer countries. But this formula for peace eventually stopped working, particularly with Iraq.
Many people today, lacking an understanding of history, would not understand the context of the humor, and so it would fall flat. The audience at the time got it, and it is an example of Americans laughing at themselves. Most of all, they laughed at Peter Sellers. This was his first starring role, and his first time playing multiple characters, following in the footsteps of Alec Guinness. While the performances are not as hilarious as his later works, they are delivered quite skillfully, and demonstrated his talent as a chameleon, which we would see in later movies. If you were to look at this movie, and compare it to later works, you might not believe they were the same actor.
I don't wish to deliver a history lesson on the Marshall Plan, the Cold War, the development of nuclear weapons, the UFO scare of the 50s, etc. But I would like to point out an amusing detail: the bomb shaped like a football-toaster hybrid. We don't see until the very end why it had the toaster slots. But the football shape was a reference to the Secret Service's code name for the briefcase they carried for the President containing the nuclear war codes, which was called "the football." I don't think the general public knew this until decades later, though.
There are some cinematic connections, such as The Marx Brothers' Duck Soup and the nation of Freedonia. The NYC cops lend an element of Keystone Kops to the story, though not much. Woody Allen would have done a better job with this material. Actually, his Bananas may have been influenced by this movie.
If you don't find this funny, or at least entertaining, perhaps you don't have a sense of humor. To be fair, the movie is dated in subject matter and style. But it is of interest in terms of film history. And it embodies the 1950s cinematic innocence and style, which often was intended to please children, as well as adults, because with the baby boom, there were lots of children, who often accompanied their parents to movies. In fact, I remember seeing this in the theater as a young child, and liked it, even though I could not have understood all the references.
So don't be too hard on this movie. Try to watch it when you are in the right mood. It is also a good family movie, and it would be interesting to see how young children respond to it today.