A Movie A Day: Quint on START THE REVOLUTION WITHOUT ME (1970)
Happy? I’ve broken my bird!!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Gene Wilder bridges us from yesterday’s QUACKSER FORTUNE HAS A COUSIN IN THE BRONX to a much more entertaining and funny movie, today’s START THE REVOLUTION WITHOUT ME.
So the flick opens with Orson Welles standing in a palatial garden, talking to us, the audience, informing us that he is here to narrate the picture we are about to view… a picture that he is not in, he adds.
Our story is one told many times over the years (and more than a few times comedically). Set during the French Revolution we get a slapstick version of the Corsican Brothers about two pairs of twins that are mismatched at birth, one set given to a poor farmer couple and one to aristocrats.
So we have two Gene Wilders and two Donald Sutherlands. The poor ones we come to find are part of a rag-tag rebellion… unwilling, of course. They’re cowards, bunglers. The others are pompous rich kids having known nothing but privilege. Their swordmanship is renowned, almost as much as their treachery.
They are summoned by King Louis for reasons unknown, but as they are delivered the summons, the plotting Duke d’Escargot (Victor Spinetti) working on behalf of Marie Antoinette involves them in a plot to kill Louis and take France.
Of course there’s a case of mistaken identity and you get the clueless thought of bloodthirsty killers and the meanies thought mad by the revolutionaries.
I talked yesterday of my obsession with Gene Wilder… I don’t know what it is, but when he screams his lines I smile. You have the infamous “You lose! Good Day, sir!” from Willy Wonka, “My name… is FRANKENSTEIN!” from Young Frankenstein… actually, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN has a ton of Wilder screaming. I love it. And he goes crazy here.
Donald Sutherland is great as the straight man. In the poor set of twins he’s every bit as goofy as Wilder, but in the aristocratic set he’s definitely the straight man.
Wilder as just perfection as the aristocratic douchebag. He’s so over the top that he circles back around again to being perfect. I don’t know of any other way to explain it. The dude is mean as shit to his poor wife, forcing her to dress up for rough sex, and when we first meet him he carries a fake hawk on his wrist. I thought it was a shitty prop until it was explained that it is a dead hawk, a pet that Wilder’s character doesn’t want to let go of, so he’s stuffed and stitched to his glove.
It’s so damn ridiculous and so damn awesome. This leads to one of my favorite parts of the film, where I took today’s subhead. Check the scene out on YouTube:
See how great Sutherland and Wilder are there?
While it’s expected that those two were going to bring it, I have to highlight an exceptional supporting cast. Let’s start with Billie Whitelaw as Marie Antoinette. The more and more I see of her I’m loving her. Before her turn in HOT FUZZ I had only really seen her in TWISTED NERVE. She was great in previous AMAD Frenzy and we follow her to tomorrow’s entry.
She plays Marie with a lot of chest… I mean breasts… I mean zest. Here Marie is a conniving wench, a horny broad fucking anything that looks at for more than 2 seconds while trying to knock off her husband, King Louis, so she can take the throne.
Louis is played by the hilarious googly-eyed Hugh Griffith. I don’t know what it is with Wilder and crazy-eyed co-stars, but between Hugh and Marty Feldman Wilder has worked with the best in the business. You’ll remember his turn in OLIVER! as the Magistrate (strangely enough, in yesterday’s QUACKSER FORTUNE Wilder and Margot Kidder make a date to see OLIVER!). We’ll see a lot more of him in the coming months as I go through some early Ealing comedies.
Anyway, he plays Louis as next to retarded, but still incredibly likable. Everybody around him is so cruel that you want him to get through all the plotting. There’s a ball scene in particular where Griffith shines. Literally. He shows up wearing a chicken costume, seemingly made of gold. He looks at the well-dressed partygoers as he is announced and is embarrassed as all hell. Whitelaw’s Antionette has a smirk as he blusters, “You told me it was a costume party” and then goes around the party telling everybody that he thought it was a costume party. He sounds so pitiful and pouty… God, he was great in the movie.
And you can not talk about this film without bringing up the gorgeous Swedish beauty Ewa Aulin, who is Christina of Belgium and is promised to Sutherland by the King if he can murder d’Escargot. She’s so beautiful she turns pauper Sutherland into an action hero. I can’t blame him. Ewa starred in CANDY and had a few horror roles, but she never broke big and quit acting in the ‘70s. Poor us. She’s light and fluffy and doesn’t showing off her amazing body, so score for all the male readers out there.
In fact, she believes poor Wilder’s fiancée is her sister and demands to see her tits, apparently comparing birthmarks to prove she’s right, so she spends the last act trying to tear Helen Fraser’s clothes off.
Final Thoughts: This film isn’t exactly a laugh riot (or is it “laff riot”?), with some jokes falling flat, but the great majority succeed. Sutherland and Wilder alone make this movie a must watch, but the tone, the gags, the supporting cast, Ewa’s boob and really smart running jokes keep the film fresh even today.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Friday, August 8th: HELL IS A CITY (1960)
Saturday, August 9th: THE PIED PIPER (1972)
Sunday, August 10th: PARTNERS (1982)
Monday, August 11th: BARRY LYNDON (1975)
Tuesday, August 12th: THE SKULL (1965)
Wednesday, August 13th: THE HELLFIRE CLUB (1961)
Thursday, August 14th: BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE (1963)
Tomorrow we follow the lovely Ms. Billie Whitelaw over to Hammer crime thriller HELL IS A CITY (great title, isn’t it?). See you then!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Aug. 8, 2008, 1:14 a.m. CST
by Bungion Boy
It happens so abruptly and bizarrely that my first instinct was that they didn't know how to end it so they just decided to kill everyone. Maybe that is it, but the way it's handled is great.
Aug. 8, 2008, 1:49 a.m. CST
I liked Billie Whitelaw in this but I just can't watch her without thinking of Mrs. Baylock.
Aug. 8, 2008, 1:57 a.m. CST
Gawd I love this movie..
Aug. 8, 2008, 2:30 a.m. CST
only one? and which twins are the rich ones and which the poor, the sutherlands or the wilders? important details damit!
Aug. 8, 2008, 3:56 a.m. CST
The doctor gets the twins mixed up, so he gives one of each to each family - so you have a rich Wilder and Sutherland, and a poor Wilder and Sutherland - it's hilarious.
Aug. 8, 2008, 3:58 a.m. CST
My college roommate and I still quote this movie from watching it 30+ years ago... Wilder's reaction when he meets the Man in the Iron Mask is worth the price of admission.
Aug. 8, 2008, 4 a.m. CST
Where metaphors are mixed and stretched to the breaking point... "Escargot knew what time it was, his tinkering was well-timed... and the time was... 1789!"
Aug. 8, 2008, 4:23 a.m. CST
yeah, which were supposed to be rich? obviously wilder and sutherland are not brothers. so both wilders should be poor or both should be rich.
Aug. 8, 2008, 4:55 a.m. CST
We don't know which family the Wilders or the Sutherlands orignally came from. They were mixed up as babies at the beginning of the movie. Then the movie cuts to them as grown men. One mixed up pair is poor. One mixed up pair is rich. But there's no way of knowing which twins were supposed to be which.
Aug. 8, 2008, 5:01 a.m. CST
Aug. 8, 2008, 6:30 a.m. CST
reading this column?
Aug. 8, 2008, 7:41 a.m. CST
Don't always comment, but its the only column on this site I read daily. And yes, I realize this is the only colun that IS daily, but I think you know what I meant. Good job Quint, just added this one to the list!
Aug. 8, 2008, 8:02 a.m. CST
...I thought this starred Ken Berry and Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Aug. 8, 2008, 8:52 a.m. CST
by Crimson Dynamo
is all the hidden gems Quint keeps unearthing, like this one
Aug. 8, 2008, 9:16 a.m. CST
by Paul Bucciarelli
Then don't read it douchebag.
Aug. 8, 2008, 10:50 a.m. CST
Don't start the revolution without me?
Aug. 8, 2008, 11:02 a.m. CST
Not one I was familiar with. Thanks Quint. Wilder and Sutherland together - how did I ever miss this one? I guess maybe because I was 3 when it hit theatres. And perhaps it didn't run often on TV (at least not before my bedtime). Plus, by the time I began to become a fan of Gene Wilder, and wanting to see more, home video was still a good 4 or 5 years away (at least in my home). That's the beauty of this column - discovering popular films for the first time.
Aug. 8, 2008, 12:01 p.m. CST
I'd have his babies.
Aug. 8, 2008, 12:25 p.m. CST
by Red Dawn Don
A MOVIE A DAY is a cult column. It is not meant for the great unwashed masses. For all those unhappy with it, DO NOT CLICK ON IT. Wow, how easy is that. It is not like you are being duped or tricked into go to the article. Use your brain for a change, it will amaze you. I love this cult column and read it often. OH, CLAUDE!
Aug. 8, 2008, 6:19 p.m. CST
<br>The Long Goodbye with Elliot Gould playing Philip Marlowe, directed by Robert Altman. Terrific 70's update of Chandler with one of the best abrupt endings ever.</br> <br>Days of Heaven with Richard Gere, directed by Terence Malick. Although I'm not the biggest fan of Malick, this film was incredible. I can understand why some people call it the most beautiful film ever. And it's amazing how much story Malick can tell with so few words. If you haven't watch it already, you owe it to yourself to do so.</br>
Aug. 8, 2008, 8:24 p.m. CST
by Johnny Ahab
This is the first time I've responded to AMAD - and yes, this is a terrifically funny (but not side-splitting) film. It's wryly funny, and yes, the tortured wordplay and metaphors are hilarious. This is one of my wife and her brother's favorite films, and we have to watch it every so often. And the stuffed dead Falcon, who's name is Thor, is genius!
Aug. 8, 2008, 8:36 p.m. CST
by Johnny Ahab
THE SILENT PARTNER, with Elliott Gould & Christopher Plummer. Great taut little thriller and Gould, like Wilder, was one of those 70s off-kilter leading men - if you've never seen this cat-and-mouse thriller, it's worth covering.
Aug. 9, 2008, 12:56 a.m. CST
Is from Bonnie and Clyde. "Wait till I get my hands on those kids Velma. I'm going to tear them apart!" Okay, granted it wasn't his loudest scream. But God damned it was funny.
Aug. 9, 2008, 8:56 a.m. CST
First saw it about a week ago - Elliott Gould plays a very complex character - very devious and unlikeable at times. The scene between Plummer and the girl at the health club was icky and disturbing. Really under-appreciated and tragically forgotten - i can see why the screenwriter - Curtis Hanson - got his chance to direct soon after - he deserved it.
Aug. 12, 2008, 1:50 p.m. CST
by Skyway Moaters
APPARENTLY, YOU are. Douchebag.
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