“You fill me with inertia !”
1967 was a year for wonderfully twisted comedies. THE PRODUCERS (Embassy)THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS(MGM), THE GRADUATE (Embassy,1967), and GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER(Columbia) were among the gems released that year.
Perhaps the most twisted and yet still funny as all get out film of the bunch was BEDAZZLED. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were two giants of the boom in British comedy and satire in the 1960s, with anti-establishment humor endearing them to the young of the time
The pair of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore first shot to international fame with their performances in both the U.K. and ten a successful two-year run in NYC in a satirical review called BEYOND THE FRINGE. Also, n the cast was playwright Alan Bennett (the play THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE) and Jonathan Miller (later to run the Old Vic Theatre).
The four intelligent young men were the heirs of absurdist humor previously popular in England due to programs like THE GOON SHOW (Spike Milligan, a very young Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, and Michael Bentine) and their creative intelligent wit mixed with surreal silliness made them the forerunners of MONTY PYTHON’s FLYING CIRCUS.
Several popular appearances on the BBC, with shows like NOT ONLY…BUT ALSO (1964,1966,1970) helped increase their popularity. The pair also successfully appeared major supporting roles in the big budget comedy THE WRONG BOX (Columbia ,1966), and so studios were open to the idea of pairing them in a starring project.
Meanwhile, American director Stanley Donen (who passed away two days after this Blu Ray release) had been MGM ‘s top director of musicals in the 1950s (SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN.1952 and SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS ,1954). After leaving MGM to free-lance at other studios, Donen spent the 1960s living in England, directing and producing several films there.
After a few box office disappointments, Donen was back on track with CHARADE (Universal,1963), a fun thriller often referred to as “the Best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made”, starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. He followed this with the similar ARABESQUE (Universal,1966) starring Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren, which was nearly as successful as the previous film.
These two hits allowed him to experiment a bit, and so he did TWO FOR THE ROAD (Fox, 1967) and the film under review here, BEDAZZLED (Fox,1967).
With a screenplay by Peter Cook (based upon a story by Cook and Moore), director Donen (no stranger to devils, having directed DAMN YANKEES in 1958 for Warner Brothers) gets into the style and mood of the swinging sixties to tell this modern reworking of the Faust legend. Moore and Cook build upon their established persona from previous routines, with Moore being the slower witted, usually taken advantage of by the fast talking, gleam in his eye Cook.
Stanley Moon (Moore), a short order cook, moons over Margaret Spencer (Eleanor Bron, most famous for appearing in the Richard Lester Beatles vehicle HELP, U.A. 1965, as well as appearing in Donen’s ONE FOR THE ROAD that same year), a waitress who barely acknowledges his existence at the Wimpy’s Burgers Restaurant at which they both works. Indeed, one of her gentlemen pick her up from work just as Stanley gets the courage to ask her out, driving the Stanley to abject despair.
Poor Moon doesn’t notice the customer with the small sunglasses and wearing an opera cape sitting at one of the tables, watching all this with great intensity.
Returning home, Moon wants to hang himself from a pipe in his ceiling, and only succeeds in breaking the pipe, causing water to fall into his tiny flat. Stepping into the apartment comes the stranger from the restaurant, who identifies himself as George Spiggott (Cook).
Spiggott then admits that is but one of the many names he has, for he is the Devil himself. To prove it, he will grant Moon one wish, save for Margaret Spencer. Thinking Stanley asks for an ice lolly. Sure enough, they go board a bus, and, using Stanley’s money, purchases an ice lolly. Not believing that Spiggott is anything more than a looney, Spiggott sighs and with the magic phrase “Julie Andrews”, they are whisked across London to a less reputable part of town, melting the ice lolly in transit. It is here that Spiggott has his seedy club that he works out of.
The bouncer, Anger (Robert Russell, superlative a year later as Vincent Price’s evil sidekick in WITCHFINDER GENERAL; Tigon/AIP,1968), tosses Stanley out, but Spiggott escorts him back in. Within the club, Stanley will also meet among others Envy (Barry Humphries, before he donned drag to gain international fame as Dame Edna. Cook had befriended and even helped support Humphries early in his career), Vanity (Alba), who walks around with a mirror in front of him, and of course, Lust (personified with a Southern Belle accent by Raquel Welch, the actress being featured upon almost all the advertising and posters).
Basically, Spiggott offers Moon the standard contact of seven wishes upon which to win his true love. Sadly, for Stanley, the Devil is truly in the details, as each attempt at a new life to win Margaret Spencer ends in disaster for the love besotted chef.
Along the way, it seems that the police believe that Moon has succeeded in his suicide attempt, with Inspector Clarke (Michael Bates, later the sadistic Chief Guard Barnes in the Stanley Kubrick masterpiece, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, WB,1971) starting to woo the young Miss while they try and find Moon’s corpse!
The wonderfully whacky film also explores with fittingly fiendish delight the modus operandi of the Devil, whether it be scratching records before they are sent off to sale, or exploring good and evil .Along the way, a strange friendship develops between Moon and Spiggott ,though in the end they both know after the seven wishes granted to Stanley his soul will belong to Spiggott. Spiggott must gain 100 Billion souls to regain his entryway into Heaven and sit again as God’s favorite. The friendship works in a mysterious twist at the end, costing Spiggot to lose is bet with the Almighty. The film ends with an unseen God laughing in a deep voice, almost insanely as the end credits roll. Maybe the Devil indeed has a right to be angry.
A few bits from earlier sketches by the pair are woven into the episodic storyline , the most famous and obvious being from NOT ONLY…BUT ALSO , “The Leaping Nuns of the Order of St Beryl” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiO_9UIUx7M .
The film sparkles with wit as well as silliness (to get out of a failed wish, Stanley needs to make a “raspberry “sound) that keeps it moving swiftly over the course of 103 minutes.
Austin Dempster had been camera operator on ARABESQUE and TWO FOR THE ROAD for director Donen, but BEDAZZLED was his first credit as cinematographer. At one point, the film switches to black and white to recreate an early television studio broadcast (as well as perhaps reference films like A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (UA,1964)). This leads into one of the most fun sequences, where fans including an awe-struck Margaret Spencer go nuts for rock star Stanley (who basically screams “Love MEEEE”), until Drimble Wedge and the Vegetation sing an emotionless version of “Bedazzled “. The fickle fans run to the latest flavor of the moment and abandon poor Stanley ,trying to blow a razzberry as fans nearly trample him to reach their new idol. The music, by the way, for the film was composed by Dudley Moore. Several artists have done covers of the “Bedazzled” song, most notably Nick Cave and Anita Lane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPJWkQudhPo .
The film when released received mixed reviews but made a profit in the United States.
Since its release, BEDAZZLED has continued to increase its cult following due to late night tv showings as well as various releases on Beta, VHS and in 2007 on DVD by Fox Entertainment.
Now TWILIGHT TIME has released the best-looking release of this film on home media, perhaps even since its original release. Another marvelous 1080p HD transfer, some of the colors are more vibrant than I’ve ever seen in this film, particularly the red of Spiggott’s inner cape lining or Raquel Welch’s tiny bra and panties she wears while hopping into bed with Stanley. Some reviewers have mentioned a slight elongation of the figures, but I didn’t notice any of this when I viewed the film.
The disc has two English only audio selections: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, the sound is clear and clean, with no noticeable sound pops, and does justice to the quippy fast delivered dialogue as well as Moore’s music.
For the hearing impaired, there are clean easy to read optional subtitles.
As an extra, you can listen to the isolated music and sound effects track, so you can enjoy the clever jazzy score and songs.
The Blu Ray cover sleeve shows us a photo of Cook as Spiggott (which for some reason reminded me of Peter Cushing in DR TERRORS HOUSE OF HORRORS (Paramount, Amicus,1965).
Twilight Time also commissioned a very fun illustration for a cover as well.
Julie Kirgo provides her always welcome liner notes in a separate booklet included with the disc, concentrating a great deal on director Donen.
Extras carried over from the 2007 FOX DVD are
Two trailers for the film,
A 2007 interview with director /comedian Harold Ramis, who directed the unnecessary 2000 remake of BEDAZZLED. Ramis waxes poetic about how wonderful the film and indeed the comic pair of Moore and Cook were.
An excerpt from THE PAUL RYAN SHOW , a 1977 British talk program ,where the pair of Moore and Cook reveal that there were tensions between them ,due to their different attitudes on dealing with things (oddly, IMDB.com only lists Moore and not Cook, but since Moore only appeared on the show once, we must assume episode 109 was the one featured here). One wishes there was the whole broadcast of this here, but we are grateful indeed to get a glimpse of this black & white rarity.
I cannot recommend this wonderful original comedy enough.
The press run is limited to only 3,000 copies, so get yours now- before George Spiggott makes all of them vanish on you.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION .
-Kevin G Shinnick
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