Tuesday 29 May 2018

6 - French comedy

Hibernatus (1969) - After a rewatch of Rabbi Jacob (which is quite fun, and clearly influenced The Pink Panther Strikes Again) and a best of clips from his films, I am beginning to see why the French adore Louis De Funes. He can be a bit wearing at times (particularly in his little rages), and this gets pretty hard-going, taking too long to reach the idea of an unfrozen historical figure. This has a shockingly fresh-faced Michael "Michel" Lonsdale (his actual name is Michael, he's only French on his mum's side), as straight man. There is some fun set design, but the idea of trying to convince the unfrozen relative it is still 1905 tries too hard, and it becomes a baffling period drama.  The end is quite fun. Spiritual sequel to Oscar (1967), later remade with Stallone. This wasn't.

Fantomas (1964) - The thing about Eurospy films is that they can be quite rigid, no matter how visual stunts can be. Dangling from a helicopter onto a submarine.  But this is goofy. The sequels, Fantomas Se Dechaine (1965, with a three-armed cyborg De Funes) and Fantomas Contre Scotland Yard (1967, which takes the Scotland in Scotland Yard literally, by shooting in Inverness) are even more goofier, and becomes quite infuriatingly stupid. The third, in particular is all brownfaced caricatures, sheet-ghosts, and annoying Euro-stupdiity. The foxhunting/plane chase scene is action-packed, but too much of it is done against shoddy back-projection. It's like a cheaper, kitschier, less enthralling List of Adrian Messenger.

The Atlantic Wall (1970) Amiable if baffling French comedy with the rather taxing idiot of Bourvil, like Bovril and his frequent costar De Funes, an acquired taste, but passable enough, with a British supporting cast, the likes of Peter McEnery (playing a British agent who speaks French with a noticeable English accent, prefiguring 'Allo 'Allo's Lt. Crabtree), Terry-Thomas and in another British sitcom related link, Frank Williams playing a vicar of a small village in wartime England who looks, acts and dresses like his more famous role of the Reverend Timothy Farthing in Dad's Army, which he played at the exact same time. Now, I wonder if director Marcel Camus had seen Dad's Army while on pre-production in England, cried, "I want that guy!" and then when Williams came home to shoot at TVC, told David Croft about the film, and then Croft perhaps was subconsicously influenced when he made 'Allo 'Allo fifteen years later. The French seem to think the Brits are obsessed with rugby (as with the Irish, see RTE-TF1-RTL series Roses from Dublin for more...)  Yes, they're not wrong per se, but still...

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