Written by: Giuseppe Rijitano on June 23rd, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: UK, 1971
Director: Rod Amateau
Writer: Denis Norden
Cast: David Niven, Virna Lisi, Robert Vaughn, Ann Bell, John Cleese, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Hugh Burden, Erik Chitty, Derek Francis, Susan Travers, Desmond Walter-Ellis, David Allister
DVD released: June 7th, 2010
Approximate running time: 89 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Odeon Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £14.99
Meet famed anthropologist and language expert Professor Alex Bolt (David Niven). Inventor of ‘Unispeak’ a universal language so groundbreaking that he is immediately awarded a special Nobel Peace Prize and worldwide acclaim to the extent that the American government are even commissioning a statue in his honor to be placed in London’s Grosvenor Square. Unfortunately the US Ambassador to Great Britain (Robert Vaughn) has chosen the Professor’s wife Rhonda (Virna Lisi), a celebrated artist and sculptor, to create said monument. Having only seen her husband for 18 days total in the last few years as he was hard at work on his new language she’s a bit miffed with him and channels her emotions into her work, creating an 18 foot statue with Bolt’s face and body but some other man’s todger. Yes that’s right; an imposter’s penis, a double’s dick, a stunt scrotum if you will. The poor Professor, enraged and embarrassed sets out to prove that the statue is not an accurate representation of his junk and thus prevent it from ever being unveiled to the public. Unfortunately Mrs Bolt isn’t letting on who posed for her, thus, armed with a list of all the men that visited his wife in the last few years, the cunning linguist begins his international quest for cock.
David Niven? On a globe-trotting trek for a tallywhacker you say? Surely a marriage of ideas created via the use of illegal hallucinogenic substances, some of which must have been ingested by Niven himself! What starts off as an almost charmingly whimsical little runaround soon descends into cringe-worthy Carry On territory as poor old Niven runs around Europe trying his best to get a look at 30 different blokes tadgers. That’s not to say this is a particularly explicit film, it isn’t, apart from some gratuitous boobage there is little skin on display, hell we don’t even get to see the much talked about ‘126 cubic inches of marble, weighing five and a half pounds’. The film’s only saving grace really is the semi-regular appearance of John Cleese as Niven’s friend; a qualified psychiatrist that just wants to be big in advertising, some fabulously oddball moments from Cleese here, particularly a scene in which he’s trying to photograph a 70’s beanbag chair ‘..bring out it’s latent masculinity damn it!’ Oh and Python Graham Chapman also makes a very brief but still very funny uncredited appearance as a news anchor attempting to describe the statue’s marble manhood on the BBC. As for the title theme (“Charlie’, performed by “The Statuettes”) surely this must be the most irritating song in movie history, we are treated to it with a stomach churning regularity that tops even California Dreamin’ in Chungking Express and made me wish I had a couple of tins of pineapple handy to lob at the TV. As a whole the film tries too hard to be wacky and by the time Professor Bolt has the entire US government (including the President!) helping him in his search for schlong it’s just become depressing to watch. But hey if you’ve ever yearned to see David Niven trying to photograph his meat and two veg on a swivel chair in a public photo booth then this is the film for you!
The anamorphic widescreen transfer comes fully loaded with lots of dirt and print damage throughout. It’s actually not all that distracting however given the nature of the film and the color’s fare very well despite the odd bit of fading here and there. The mono audio track is fine, clean and clear.
There is only one extra of note but, shockingly enough, it’s a really good one!
‘Conversations With David Niven’ is a 50 minute interview, or rather compilation of interviews, with Niven over the course of a decade or so by UK TV presenter Chris Kelly. It also comes across as something of a bio and a tribute (given it was aired/created shortly after Niven’s death) and has Niven discussing his early life, getting into the US film industry, his wartime experiences, marriages, etc. Niven is an easygoing charming and very funny interviewee with an arsenal of fascinating as well as hilarious anecdotes at his disposal. Also included throughout are clips of Niven in films dating as far back as the 1930’s, his Oscar moment and even an extended interview with Deborah Kerr. For fans of David Niven and the golden age of Hollywood cinema this DVD might just be worth purchasing for this excellent little gem of a documentary alone!
Also included are trailers for Goodbye Gemini, Say Hello To Yesterday and Mumsy Nanny Sonny & Girly. Plus lengthy and actually quite informative liner notes by Simon Sheridan author of ‘Keeping the British End Up: Four Decades of Saucy Cinema’ and the like.
Skip the main feature but give the bonus documentary a watch!