Only Two Can Play (1962) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
25 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
early Sellars
blanche-24 June 2008
"Only Two Can Play" is a slice of life comedy made in 1962. Based on a novel by Kingsley Amis, it concerns an assistant librarian, John Lewis (Peter Sellars) who has a chance at a better position and a raise, contingent upon him sleeping with the council chairman's wife (Mai Zetterling). He has a beautiful if exhausted wife at home (Virginia Maskell) and children, and the confines of his home are a little tight and chaotic. Lewis attempts to make a go of the affair, with humor and poignancy as the result.

This is a very well acted film, and a very satisfying one. Sellars wasn't a huge star yet, but all the elements are there. Mai Zetterling, primarily remembered today as a director, was a marvelous actress and very sexy. In her book, "All Those Tomorrows" she describes her experiences living with Tyrone Power and being madly in love with him for several years. That was some life she had. This was the last film Virginia Maskell would make for a time - she married after this movie and did very little until 1967. Sellars tried to get her replaced in the film, but the director refused. It seems odd, because she was very good. After the birth of a child in 1967, she became acutely depressed and ultimately overdosed on antidepressants. A sad end for a fine actress. The rest of the cast is excellent as well.

A very good film, well worth seeing.
17 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Sellers dallies in the valleys
kennedya-118 October 2005
This an unconsidered little pearl and indicates where British film comedy might have gone in the 60s and 70s had it not tumbled into the abyss of the Carry On series and the Neanderthal Confessions of a Window Cleaner/Driving Instructor etc. The former was bad but the latter made Sid, Kenneth and co look like the RSC. This Sellers vehicle on the other hand, from a book by Kingsley Amis, is tightly written,well acted and genuinely funny. Apart from Sellers, Richard Attenborough is particularly good as Probert the belligerent Welsh bard who in deference to his role model has no intention of going gentle into that good night. His acerbic exchanges with Sellers' librarian are the highlights of the film. And unlike practically( I must exclude Shirley Eaton!) any female who ever appeared in either of the horrendous series mentioned above Mai Zetterling is sexy and believable. A great treat for a rainy afternoon and a chance to reassess whether Sellers' best work was in Strangelove and the Cloiseau films or were some of his earlier more understated characterisations actually superior.
33 out of 35 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Splendid change-of-pace for Sellers
F Gwynplaine MacIntyre6 February 2003
Warning: Spoilers
'Only Two Can Play' varies uncertainly between sex farce and comedy of manners, but it's an excellent film which gives Peter Sellers a better chance than usual to create a three-dimensional character, rather than relying on putty noses and showy accents. Talking of which: This film takes place in South Wales, and I was distressed by the pushmi-pullyu accents of several of the main characters. Sellers, Virginia Maskell and Richard Attenborough all have a go at doing Anglo-Welsh accents, but none of them manage to be consistent. The authentic Welsh Valleys accent of the excellent character actor Kenneth Griffith (as Sellers's workmate) only emphasises the other actors' dodgy accents. Mai Zetterling's Swedish accent hovers incongruously above the proceedings. (The dialogue establishes her as a war refugee.) Also, the unbilled child actress who plays Sellers's daughter Gwyneth has a very strong North Wales accent, which contrasts rather jarringly with the voices all round her. Refreshingly, this child actress gives an excellent performance.

Rather delightfully, 'Only Two Can Play' was actually filmed in South Wales, and it did my heart good to see the graceful hills and row houses of this region as it looked in the early 1960s. This film is full of tiny pleasures, celebrating the British way of life in this post-war period. Little details like the bag of salt inside the packet of crisps, a dialogue reference to conkers (a game which English schoolboys play with chestnuts), or a glimpse of a 1960s page-three girl well and truly pleased me. Even the toilet with the flush-chain next to the washbasin (something which I remember all too painfully) brought back a nostalgic smile to me, now that I no longer have to face this horror in my daily reality. Also, the dialogue includes some delightful figures of speech which are authentic to the period but which are no longer heard in modern Britain ... such as when Sellers nervously admits he has "a case of the screaming ab-dabs".

'Only Two Can Play' has a very coherent and believable plot, which is no surprise as this film is based on a novel by Kingsley Amis. Sellers plays John Lewis, an assistant librarian who has a chance for a promotion (and a much-needed rise in wages) if he has an affair with Liz Gruffydds-Williams (played by the very sexy Mai Zetterling), the wife of the local council chairman. Lewis and his wife Jean (the beautiful Virginia Maskell) live in a walk-up flat, sharing a bathroom with all the other tenants. When Jean learns that her husband is cheating on her (or at least trying very hard to do so), Virginia Maskell's reaction is very believable and touching. Full disclosure: I briefly worked with Miss Maskell a few years after she made this film; she was a profoundly talented actress but extremely insecure with it. Her ultimate plunge into depression and suicide was a great tragedy.

A fine contingent of British supporting actors are here, including John Le Mesurier ... who seems to have got a look-in during every important English comedy film of this period. Graham Stark, whom I usually find very funny, does an oddly unpleasant turn here as some sort of ill-defined pervert whose precise kink is never established. Raymond Huntley (as the councillor) and Meredith Edwards have too little to do. Richard Attenborough gives an excellent performance as a poncy intellectual, looking like a cross between George Orwell's "fruit juice-drinking, sandal-wearing" pseud and Rolf Harris. When Sellers refers to Attenborough as 'the Catcher in the Rye' I nearly died laughing.

This film is not (and doesn't try to be) one of Peter Sellers's slapstick-fests: instead, it's a character study which gives Sellers a chance to show off his **acting** talents rather than his powers of mimicry.

SLIGHT SPOILERS: American audiences won't get all the references here. After Sellers breaks off his affair with Zetterling, she acquires a very servile boyfriend whom Sellers suggests she should bring to Cruft's: this is an annual London dog show. The very last shot in the film contains a sight gag which is funny and poignant both at the same go. To strengthen his marriage, Sellers chucks his library job and operates a travelling library (a bookmobile) so that he and his wife can drive through the Welsh countryside together, bringing books to villagers. As they drive down the road, we see a large letter "L" affixed to the rear mudguard of their van. British viewers will recognise this as a learner's plate, which student drivers are required to display. Viewed symbolically, it's a sweetly funny joke: librarian Sellers is still learning his way on the road of life, but now he and his wife are taking that journey together.

I'll rate 'Only Two Can Play' 9 out of 10, with only a few examples of bad shot-matching to deprive this movie of a perfect 10. This movie is an excellent change of pace for Peter Sellers.
23 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A truly adult comedy
Enoch Sneed9 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is an excellent film which is true-to-life without being showy or melodramatic. Although definitely a comedy it makes great play of the depressing and restricted life of the central character, particularly the crowded and noisy family home and the lack of privacy and comfort resulting from shared bathrooms (Sellers adjustment of the air-freshener when his landlord comes out of the toilet makes any verbal comment redundant).

As a librarian myself I can relate to the professional setting and the dull routine of lending and shelving stock. Graham Stark's Mr Hyman is typical of some of the characters public libraries seem to attract. I remember a man like this who used to visit a library I once worked in. His speciality was putting a small mirror on the floor so he could look up women's skirts.

The film makes no attempt to make adultery look romantic. Here it is a guilt-ridden farce full of betrayal and exploitation. It's a fine moment when Liz dumps her lapdog on Sellers and he realises he is just another accessory to her lifestyle (her 'bit of rough' to balance Bill's smoothness maybe?).

Sellers attempt at adultery is all the worse because his wife is far from unattractive. Tired and worn down by family responsibilities perhaps, but practical and supportive. Virginia Maskell makes Jean's helplessness in the face of Liz's glamour extremely poignant indeed. It's a tragedy that this fine actress would reach a point in her own life when she couldn't see a way out.

Sellers himself is still just on the verge of international stardom. He looks like a normal human being, not the stick thin Hollywood type he became (Sellers lost his natural chubbiness throughout his career, as he got thinner he got unhappier). He is also still a character actor, rather than a caricature who says things like 'heump' and 'beumb'. His John Lewis is totally believable.Some critics have ridiculed the idea that Sellers was ever an actor, they say he was only a mimic with a slim talent for funny voices. This film shows how wrong they are.
8 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A nicely understated gem from Peter Sellers and a good supporting cast
stanistreet-227 May 2007
Peter Sellers was always at his best in this type of local comedy. His randy Welsh librarian, frustrated with his dead-end job, has a part-time job as a reporter on the local newspaper, doing reviews of the local repertory theatre. We see his dreary home life; his long-suffering wife - a lovely performance from Virginia Maskell; his interchanges with his hypochondriac neighbour - Kenneth Griffiths. Enter the glamorous Mai Zetterling, wife of the local big-wig (Raymond Huntley)and Seller's life is catapulted into confusions. A chance of promotion - in exchange for sexual favours with Mai - catapults him into a sequence of very funny situations. One, a confrontation with an avant-garde poet/playwright - a beautiful cameo role by Richard Attenborough - is hilarious and the whole film progresses at a very satisfying pace, never descending in to farce. It would be nice to have it available in DVD format. It is a much better example of some of Seller's work, such as the farcical Pink Panther froth.
15 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Peter Sellers in one of his more serious characterizations
Tony Patriarche18 May 2007
I was not surprised to see that this movie was based on the black humour of Kingsley Amis. Do not expect from Sellers the slapstick farce of the Pink Panther days or the sparkling multiple personalities of the "Mouse that Roared" or the radio Goon shows. Instead, here is a believable person whose comedy arises from his all-too-human reaction to the situation in which he finds himself.

The "usual suspects" put up fine character performances, there are funny moments enough. If the movie is not quite the comic equal of "I'm All Right Jack", or other Sellers movies of the early 60s, perhaps it is because the comedy and its resolution are a little too conventional to show Sellers at his best. It is still worth watching to see Sellers at his best as a serious actor.

As another comment mentioned, the black-&-white filming is also just right for the subject.
10 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
wonderful little Peter Sellers portrayal of a desperate Welsh librarian.
kjff30 May 2002
This is a terrific example of a number of little English gems that Sellers made before his international stardom as Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther. The writing and directing are wonderful as is the great black and white cinematography that captures a dismal Welsh mining town. See it if you can find it.
13 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The private life of bookworms
Chase_Witherspoon26 October 2012
Understated comedic drama stars the sardonic Sellers as a Welsh librarian, bored by the blandness of his job and domestic labours, who develops a pathological weakness for women to fill the void, shamelessly flirting with customers, neighbours teetering on the brink of adultery at virtually every turn. He meets married well-to-do Liz (Zetterling) and the two become embroiled in a relationship that threatens to escalate into infidelity, though neither seem capable of consummating the sexual innuendo that's beckoning a heated interlude.

Virginia Maskell is first-rate as Sellers' stay-at-home wife, chained to the kitchen sink of life with two ankle-biters for whom to care while her husband attends literary parties and engages in dalliances at her expense. Maskell is clearly a cut above the hijinks, though Sellers is equally adept with this type of dry comedy and the two trade some very witty and at times poignant dialogue. It's a shame that Maskell couldn't capitalise on her talent, as she would have been destined for great performances, had she lived longer.

Kenneth Griffith plays Sellers' henpecked friend, while Graham Stark has a small role as an unwelcome library patron whose choice of book and subsequent indulgence ("yes I can see you enjoyed it") places Sellers under a great test of sufferance. That's future "Q" Desmond Llewellyn as a vicar aboard Sellers' daily bus route.

Astute dialogue, both sharp in its observations, and otherwise very witty ("how about the complete history of codpieces"), some sombre and pointed, "Only Two Can Play" is a measured study of unrealised ambition and the weight of everyday domestic pressures. Probably not for the casual Sellers' fan club, but should certainly keep others entertained, whether you're after dry humour or bittersweet drama.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Only two can play but others are always on the sidelines......
ianlouisiana12 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Mai Zetterling was a member of that very exclusive club - the female actor/director/writer sorority.Her curse - if indeed that it be - was that she possessed great physical beauty as well as intellectual and artistic distinction:and in a society obsessed with physiognomical appearance her other attributes were very often considered to be of secondary importance. It is ironic then,that in "Only two can play",she is cast as by far the strongest and smartest character - Mrs Gruffyd - Williams. Strong,smart and very sexy,she is clever enough to hide the first two and flaunt the third.Mr Peter Sellers as John Lewis the oversexed librarian is in thrall to her from the moment they meet.Imprisoned in a dreary flat and an equally dreary marriage,a victim of his libido,Lewis is desperately seeking a little spice. Rather than a film of the sixties, this is very much a film of the fifties.It negotiates the labyrinthine complexities of post world war two British society skilfully,following the guidelines set down by Kingsley Amis(a determinedly 1950s man) in his novel.Adultery is contemplated,even attempted but never actually committed. Set in Wales,a country that at the time was considered to be even more prudish than middle - England ,the film pokes fun at social and intellectual pretensions as personified by Mr Kenneth Griffith and Sir Richard Attenborough respectively.The social and sexual aspirations of Mr Peter Sellers' character are gently mocked too. It contains a fine portrait of a woman whose life is crumbling round her as she desperately struggles to keep it all together that is worthy of a less light-hearted context.The late Miss Virginia Maskell reminds us with her portrayal of Lewis's wife that adultery may be a game that only two can play,but others are always on the sidelines. Mr Sellers' career went global soon after this,his roles gradually degenerating until they became merely exercises in virtuoso mimicry. I personally found his performances in "Dr Strangelove" detracted from its efficacy,and once he donned the white mac and alpine hat of Inspector Clouseau he never again played a character that was a recognisable human being.The role of John Lewis has a depth and truth he was not to find again,demonstrating the full range of his skills as an actor.It is a matter of regret for me that "Being There" is apparently widely accepted as his best work and "Only two can play " is virtually unknown.In a perfect world the reverse would hold good.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Sellers at a high level
Scott4417 May 2014
***User reviewer F Gwynplaine MacIntyre ("Splendid change-of-pace for Sellers", F Gwynplaine MacIntyre from Minffordd, North Wales, 6 February 2003) offers an excellent commentary; he has insight on the accents and other fascinating details. Also, ShadeGrenade from Ambrosia ("Lust for a librarian", ShadeGrenade from Ambrosia, 23 November 2010) provides interesting background about the origin of the play that is unsuccessfully staged.***

"Only Two Can Play," is a real gem; it is a British romantic comedy without any weak moments. The story's central giggle, that an ordinary library in Wales could consistently attract such a cavalcade of attractive women is handled very well. Almost all of the women who appear here are outrageously pretty. This includes the two lead females, Liz (Mai Zetterling) and Jean (Virginia Maskell). Maskell, uncommonly beautiful, portrays a hard-working wife and mother of two who is too tired for sex. Liz, the seducing socialite and home-wrecker is uncommonly fun company as we get to know her.

Of course, the star is Peter Sellers (as John Lewis). Sellers delivers an awesome performance, his comic genius and acerbic verbal sparring (particularly with Richard Attenborough's avant-garde playwright, Gareth L. Probert) are both on display. Sidney Gilliat, the film's director, must have had an amazing experience to have directed the young Sellers, as the latter routinely turns common dialog into cinema magic. Sellers simultaneously displays his penchant for slapstick as well as being a believable romantic lead. He should have tried this more often.

The story of a marriage in jeopardy is relatively simple. The dialog is often very conversational. The direction is solid. It isn't "laugh out loud" funny until the aftermath of the play. I found John's discovery that the play that he had not actually seen but nevertheless praised as a critic to be really amusing.

The Welsh accents that the performers are attempting to adopt as well as some of the cultural references are occasionally difficult for an American audience to follow, but not unforgivably so. The litany of interruptions that prevent John from consummating his affair with Liz are pretty hilarious. Although John is pretty sure which woman he wants at the end, both compete for the audience's love.

Virginia Maskell's experiences during this production (i.e., she is excellent but Sellers tried to have her replaced) and afterward (i.e., depression, suicide) are of great interest to many who love this film. We get to watch screen performers knowing what is in store for them. In this way they live forever.

"Only Two Can Play" is a romantic comedy that most adults will greatly enjoy.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Excellent Sellers
Syxiepoo21 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I saw the film again quite recently and, despite its age it still cracks me up. It must have been difficult for Sellers to contain his enthusiasm playing Lewis, but he manages an appropriately subdued character, bubbling under with sardonic humour and sarcasm. His wonderful treatment of his co-worker, Jenkins, is beautifully sarcastic, yet well meaning, whilst his loathing of Probert is obvious but a little understated. The slightly obvious ploy of the theatre fire whilst he is otherwise engaged, followed by his newspaper criticism next day, still remains hysterically funny. This is one of Sellers best outings, despite the many excellent films he made during his sadly curtailed life.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Great early Sellers in B/W
shepardjessica3 July 2004
I remember seeing this on late night when I was about 10 and along with The Mouse that Roared turned me into a Peter Sellers fan for life! I really prefer his early British films, although he was great in Strangelove and as Clouseau. I'm Allright, Jack is a particular favorite, along with The Naked Truth, Heavens Above!, The Smallest Show on Earth, and Carleton Browne of the F.O.

This is a sly, personal film about marriage and infidelity and it was nice to see director Mai Zetterling in a role that suited her. With all the blockbuster junk-filled spectacles, there will always be a place for wonderful little films like this.
11 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Lust for a librarian
ShadeGrenade23 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
'Only Two Can Play' is my all-time favourite Peter Sellers picture. As well as being wonderfully funny, it has the added appeal for me of being partly filmed on locations I know well - they are just up the road from where I live! Based on Kingsley Amis' book 'That Uncertain Feeling', it was brought to the screen by writer Bryan Forbes and the formidable producer/director team of Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat. The story goes that Sellers did not want the role of 'John Lewis' as he felt incapable of reproducing a Welsh accent. Kenneth Griffith, one of his co-stars, took him into a Swansea pub and, after listening to the local men for a short while, Peter knew enough to get the accent dead right. As chief librarian in the town of Aberdarcy, Lewis is dissatisfied with his lot in life, and who wouldn't be - his wife Jean ( Virginia Maskell ) is too tired for sex, the kids ( particularly Gwyneth, who has an imaginary friend she calls 'Balk' ) nag him constantly, the plumbing in their lodgings does not work, the landlady is a right old gossip, the bus does not wait for him in the mornings, and so on. He glances lustily at the pretty women who come his way looking for books. He is ripe for a torrid affair, and Liz Gruffydd-Williams ( Mai Zetterling ) the wife of a local big-wig, seems attracted to him, as well as willing to help him secure a better job.

Their attempts at love making are amongst the funniest scenes ever put on film, almost Clouseau-like in fact. At one point, they caress each other in a car in a field at night, but their passion dies when a cow peers through the window. When Liz' husband is away, she invites John to her house, but he returns unexpectedly, and John tries to sneak off, only to bump into their pompous butler ( the wonderful John Le Mesurier ). The French accent John uses would later be deployed by Sellers in 'The Pink Panther' ( 1964 ) and its sequels.

Sellers gets the Welsh angry young man down to a tee, and the rest of the cast are impressive too, particularly Maskell ( whom Sellers did not get on at all with ) as Jean. Zetterling seems to have spent much of her career playing foreign spies in trench-coats, but here she took it off ( along with everything else! ). Griffith is a riot as John's best friend 'Ieuan', who seems to be dead and does not know it. He too is a bit of a social climber. In one of the best scenes, he plays 'Dai Death' in an amateur stage play, only to accidentally burn down the theatre! Having sat through 'Under Milk Wood' numerous times whilst at school, how marvellous it is to see Dylan Thomas' work parodied as 'Bowen Thomas - Tailor Of Llandilo'. "What a fabulous title!", says John, sarcastically. "Its a wonder nobody's thought of it before. Is it a comedy is it?". Richard Attenborough, who acted with Sellers in 'Private's Progress' and 'I'm Sll Right Jack', gives a nicely judged performance as supercilious Welsh playwright Gareth Probert.

There's also Graham Stark as a pervert searching for dirty books in the library, John Arnatt as 'Bill', and Raymond Huntley as Liz' husband 'Vernon'. An uncredited Meg Wynn Owen, Talfryn Thomas and Desmond 'Q' Llewelyn are also around. But its Sellers who makes the film a treat to watch. There are similarities between 'Only Two Can Play' and the kitchen sink drama 'Room At The Top' ( 1959 ) which starred Laurence Harvey as 'Joe Lampton', a frustrated Northern working class provincial hero who has an affair with a foreign temptress ( Simone Signoret ). Like 'Billy Liar' ( 1963 ), you can watch this film on two levels - as a comedy, and as a social document of life in Wales at that time. Nice music by Richard Rodney Bennett too!

Funniest moment? There are many, but for me its the sight of John trying to carry Liz into the bedroom and handle two cigarettes at the same time.

If you love early '60's British film comedies, you must see 'Only Two Can Play'. It was one of Sellers' last great films, made just before he went to Hollywood and squandered his talents on tenth-rate junk.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Modest Welsh comidrama with Sellers perfectly cast & played
Tim Kidner14 April 2011
Having have lived in the Welsh Valleys for a good while a few years ago, I really feel for this poignant, witty and largely forgotten and unknown little drama about a librarian. And his wife and his little 'adventure' on the side.

It's far sweeter than the average English kitchen sink, is superbly adapted from a Kinglsey Amis novel and features an array of familiar faces, from John Le Messieur and Richard Attenborough with Kenneth Griffith as a rather ridiculed and pathetically nerdy fellow librarian.

Peter Sellers is natural, the accent pitch perfect and his wife and family (great little daughter, full of big-eyed mischief & wonder) believable. His foray into an affair is rather glaringly obvious for a close-knit valley town to realistically withstand though I think there's a good balance between 'nudge-nudge, wink-wink' innuendo, which is usually wittily rather than crudely expressed and the more hum-drum, everyday scenes. Comedy is in there, but as a supporting act, so to speak and is nicely done.

Librarians generally get a rather staid and boring label and it would be far too obvious - and wrong - to have a zany character, or Sellers playing one. But, as in any profession, libraries employ different sorts and get all manner of customers.

Overall there's a warmth and freshness that I find endearing, though I might be a little biased. If you get a chance to see it, go for it. Apart from my originally seeing it on UK TV about 6 years ago, I've not seen that it's been shown since and only now have I been reacquainted with it on DVD. You can find it on The Peter Sellers Collection, included with it are I'm Alright Jack and Heaven's Above along with a disc that features a compilation of Seller's best TV work.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Funny little moments in uneven kitchen-sink dramedy...
moonspinner559 September 2008
British-made comedy-drama about an unfulfilled Welsh librarian and family man who contemplates having an affair with the library chairman's flirtatious wife. As played by Peter Sellers (in a benign performance earmarked by the actor's charming aloofness), this character is both ridiculous and endearing eyeing the bums and breasts of Welsh's finest femmes, but the kitchen-sink dynamics of the story never really take hold. The film does have something to say about working-class marriages and lives stuck in a rut, but screenwriter Bryan Forbes can't seem to work big laughs into the narrative, and as a result the picture isn't more than faintly amusing. These type of "oh no, my husband's come home!" situations were surely hoary even in 1962, however Sellers has a nice way of turning the hum-drum into sprightly, if low-keyed, human angst; one is drawn to even the smallest gestures on the basis of his charisma alone. Peter has a wonderful moment kissing Mai Zetterling behind a sheer curtain, and a marvelously-observed bit interviewing for a higher position in the library. His talk of jetting off to parts unknown recalls later studies such as "Charlie Bubbles", and the upbeat ending is cute if utterly unrealistic. **1/2 from ****
5 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Just okay---and not a comedy, by the way
MartinHafer9 September 2007
While there are some ironic twists here and there, this Peter Sellers film is definitely NOT a comedy. And while it is interesting (particularly at the end), it's a movie that is just OK--not one you should rush out to see.

Sellers plays a librarian who is both looking for a promotion and longs for an affair. In many ways, the film is like a Welsh version of THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH, as Sellers is a family man who seems to want to cheat on his nice wife more to prove he's "still got it" than any other reason. Throughout the film, he pursues the rather easy to get Liz, the wife of a local big-wig. I was frankly quite turned off by this because it wasn't all that funny and it was really hard to care at all about Sellers--he was behaving like a real jerk.

Fortunately, as the movie continues, it fortunately begins to show a bit more depth--with a deeper message other than "horny Sellers wants to get in Liz's knickers". This leads to a dandy climax (no pun intended) which tends to make watching the rest of the film worth while.

Overall, if you are looking for a film like DR. STRANGELOVE, THE MOUSE THAT ROARED, THE PINK PANTHER or BEING THERE, then you'll be very disappointed. Without these high expectations, you'll probably have an easier time connecting to the film.
8 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
classic peter sellers
4friedchickensandacoke31 March 2002
saw this film last night on pay tv, and it was the first time i have ever run across this film either on tape or TV. The subject matter must have been a bit risque for the earlier 60's and there was even a quick nude shot of the leading actress in a reflection of a mirror.. the black and white photography was good, as it reflects the era of the early 60's and in color would not have given any benefit to the material shot in England or Wales.
4 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of the best films from Peter Sellers.
alexanderdavies-9938225 September 2017
This classic deserves a far higher rating. Peter Sellers made most of his best films from the mid 1950s to the mid 1960s and "Only Two Can Play" is a masterpiece. Sellers added the lecherous Welsh librarian to his gallery of comic characters and his performance is the one to watch. He has been given some excellent dialogue to act with but so has the rest of the cast. "Only Two Can Play" isn't the kind of comedy where the humour is broad and direct, such as in the "Carry On" films. No, the humour in the above film is more subtle and incisive. Peter Sellers plays a librarian in a small Welsh town and can't seem to keep his eye off the ladies! He is married with two small children and they all struggle to make ends meet. Then an opportunity for promotion comes along and that is where the problems begin. There follows an affair between Sellers and a married, rich and bored wife who promises to give the librarian an advantage in being promoted in return for his selling his soul..... I won't say anything more about the plot but this is a fine film and Peter Sellers is at his very best.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Peter Sellers at His Best
JLRMovieReviews16 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"Only Two Can Play" has Peter Sellers married with two children in a Welsh community, working as a librarian. We open on a highlight of one of his days when an enticing young lady comes in asking for "Conditioned Reflexes" by Pavlov. I don't read Pavlov, so I don't know if that's a real book or what. But it sure makes for an arousing moment for a somewhat humdrum day. He seems to like his job to a degree; we see he knows his books by way of conversations with the public and throughout the film. But, maybe he knows it too well and inside and out, needing a change. After the opening credits, he wakes up one morning, and we hear him thinking to himself about his day and his life and we sense he's become resigned to a life of monotonous drudgery. That is, until he meets Liz, played by Mai Zetterling, the wife of a town councilman, who comes in the library and needs assistance. An alliance is formed but never incorporated. Their attempts always seem to be to no avail, most of the time through no fault of their own. What I thought was going to be a zany comedy, like "School for Scoundrels," actually is a very good study of a married man trying to find excitement but looking in all the wrong places. Peter Sellers is very good and I would say it's one of his best dramatic films, outside of "Being There," one of my favorite films. What his character forgets is that "two can play." Richard Attenborough, an old acquaintance of his and his wife's, shows up trying to rekindle his affection for his wife. And, there's a new opening in the library dept. that Liz can influence her councilman husband for Peter to get. But then Peter's eyes are opened and the last 20 minutes or so is very touching. Watch "Only Two Can Play" and see the serious side of Peter Sellers at work. Is it his best side?
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Low Key Comedy About Librarians in Love
aramis-112-80488016 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"Only Two Can Play" may be the closest Peter Sellers came to playing a normal human being in good movies. A genius of voices, building his characters from the vocal chords out, Sellers was usually at his tip-tip playing off-kilter characters.

Here, working with little more than a soft Welsh dialect (which he maintains fairly well, with only a few strange excursions into other vocal realms), Sellers builds a believable character who is unhappy with his inconsequential job and in his marriage (to the tragic Virginia Maskell). Suddenly his life is enlivened by the exotic wife of an influential figure who (rather inexplicably) gets the hots for Sellers' character, and who can also put in a word for him to get a better job in return for certain favors Sellers is more than willing to pay.

The film gets considerable mileage over what goes wrong every time the two try to consummate their affair. Overall, though, the tone is low-key and the film never really takes off. "Only Two Can Play" is a must for Sellers' fans, but don't expect any of his wackier creations.

Nevertheless, it shows that Sellers may not have given himself enough credit, and he may have been woefully used in more normal parts that required just a slight accent.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
She's Just Interested In His Body.
Robert J. Maxwell20 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
From Kingsley Amis, through Brian Forbes, to Sidney Gilliat, this amusing tale of Peter Sellers as a librarian in a small Welsh town, who can win the competitive promotion to Chief Minister of Local Librarianship with the help of Mai Zetterling, the wife of the local power broker, can't help but hold the viewer's interest. Sellers is happily married to Virginia Maskell and has two lovely kiddies at home but he's vaguely discontent and, besides, Zetterling has the hots for him and looks just swell in the nude, as we see in a brief shot.

Zetterling keeps coming on to him and they keep getting interrupted at awkward moments. But there's no question about it. All Sellers has to do is continue to make himself available and sooner or later the dirty deed will happen. Zetterling has done it before. She has a dejected former lover following her around, waiting despondently for orders like hold this doggie, get me my usual drink, and baby sit for the man I now want to seduce.

This is 1962, sort of on the cusp. Sellers hasn't quite got the character down. He uses his familiar mannerisms and interjections -- "Yes, well, you see --" and "My darling." Except for one slapstick episode involving the early return of Zetterling's husband, he plays the role as blasé, a little anxious about everything but not quite anxious enough about any particular thing, like the possibility of promotion. Sometimes his speech sounds a little Welsh. And there are a few moments when the hint of a Hindi accent appears, which he was later to put to good use in "The Party" and the baccarat scene in "Casino Royale." The director has given Sellers his head in some scenes and he's as good as ever at improvisation.

Zetterling is suitably provocative. Virginia Maskell, as Seller's wife, is industrious, sensible, and a stunning combination of sensuality and domesticity. Richard Attenborough has a hilarious stint as a celebrated local poet who is busy translating Kafka into Welsh and who has written a play in the bardic tradition with an unpronounceable Welsh title. Kenneth Griffith is diverting as the neural shambles who vomits when he's upset.

The chief problem with the film could hardly have been avoided. It reflects the traditional values of the 1950s and unless we can accept that, it's liable to seem dated. Sellers could be Doris Day and Zetterling could be Rock Hudson. The ending is concordant with those values, with Sellers turning down the sneakily-gotten promotion and Zetterling's body because he doesn't want to be used. Hardly acceptable in today's ethical climate in which sleeping one's way to the top is no longer despicable but more or less taken for granted.

If it's not a great comedy, it's a good one, and uses the customary elements of the British comedies of the 1950s -- black and white, small budget, fine cast.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
2 Can Tango Too-Only Two Can Play **1/2
edwagreen20 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is essentially the story of a bored librarian, Peter Sellers, really in the throws of the 7 year itch. In walks in the wife of an important person on the library commission. She can get him a promotion providing that he fully cooperates in a love affair. Peter Sellers gives an interesting performance in both a comical and semi-dramatic way. Mai Zetterling is the shrew of a woman.

The story is really about how you get somewhere and an ending similar in nature to that of 1960's "The Apartment."

The picture is just fair as it becomes quite dull at times. The comedy scenes of Sellers being caught in the act aren't exactly played up in the manner that they could have been.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Welsh Rarebit
writers_reign5 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Seen today Virginia Maskell tends to dominate perhaps because she lived less than a decade after the film, tragically taking her own life, perhaps because we despise Peter Sellers, who moved heaven and earth to have her replaced, albeit unsuccessfully but possibly mostly because of the way she tackles a thankless role. The Old Pals Act is on display again via screenplay writer Bryan Forbes - never one to pass up a chance to cast his mediocre actress wife Nanette Newman - a close friend and business partner of Dickie Attenborough, creates a cameo for Attenborough's brother-in-law Gerald Sim. Sellers is just about adequate as the randy and frustrated librarian, a string of reliables - Raymond Huntley, Kenneth Griffiths, John Le Mesurier - make up the numbers but both Mai Zetterling and Maskell are too good for stuff like this.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Book Now
writers_reign15 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is a wonderful opportunity to see the lovely - and ultimately tragic - Virginia Maskell who illuminates every scene in which she appears. We can only thank God that the vastly overrated ego-tripping Peter Sellers was foiled by director Syndey Gilliat in his efforts to have her replaced. Sellers himself walks through the part of a horny and vaguely discontented librarian who is equally frustrated in his attempts at sex with a more than willing Mai Zetterling - as I haven't read the book it's unclear whether screenwriter Bryan Forbes stole the idea of the lower class male having an affair with the foreign-born wife of a wealthy businessman himself (from John Braine's Room At The Top, filmed four years earlier) or whether the culprit was Kingles Amis in his original novel. Whatever it doesn't really come off as there is a notable lack of sexual chemistry between Sellers and Zetterling. Forbes, notorious for featuring his wife, Nanette Newman, in his movies, clearly stretches that to close friends and tailored a cameo for his great friend Richard 'Bunter' Attenborough. Though badly dated it's still worth seeing for Virginia Maskell.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Stale, dragging tale from beginning to end.
David Traversa16 August 2011
This movie is so dated that to watch it nowadays gives you the feeling of watching an early movie, "A Trip to the Moon" --1902-- for example.

But "A Trip to the Moon" can be accepted if we place our mind at that time, with that technology, etc. as a museum piece, a curiosity. Not this movie though, where from the initial 1950s title the whole thing is redolent of naphthalene, and that feeling goes on with a sudden close up of Peter Seller (as funny as yesterday morning flat and cold soufflé) and it goes on in a very Kingsley Amis (the author of this book) way, a way as old fashioned as the treatment for this movie.

What a turkey! Peter Sellers is totally miscast for this rol, because if we consider that the character, according to the females reaction when seeing him, was an instant turn on, he, obviously, doesn't fit the rol by a long shot (a Sean Connery was needed here).

He was SO blah! and the women that were supposed to be bombshells, were totally ruined with that 1950s look --exagerated (ridiculous) pointed bust, waists cinched to death and beehive hairdos-- the only exception being Virginia Maskell (Sellers wife in the movie) a lovely, natural beauty, fortunately without all that paraphernalia that was the last cry for the fashion of that time.

Everything is old fashion in this movie, the situations (many of them pathetic), the pacing, the editing, the camera work, the acting. Some comments mentioned "the humor"... I'm flabbergasted... was there humor in this movie? I totally missed it.

I don't get it, English movies are usually exceptionally good, but this one in particular is impossibly bad, as bad as Mr. Amis literature.
1 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews