Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Wrong Box

The movie The Wrong Box (1966) is a fun farce. I saw it more than once on TV when I was a kid. Or saw parts of it different times, but in any case it was one of those childhood movies that stuck with me. Especially the montage near the beginning, when members of the tontine — bold Victorians, all — are shown embarking on adventures in distant lands and dying in comic ways, such as the fellow who reaches a mountain peak and is swallowed by the mountain the moment he plants the Union Jack on it.

I saw it again recently and appreciated it in a way I didn't 40+ years ago. Back then I had no idea how much British comedic talent was on screen: Michael Caine as the main character, but also John Mills, Ralph Richardson, Peter Sellers, and especially Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. The following, which I'm quoting from memory, wouldn't have been so funny in the hands of lesser comedians, but these two make it work:

John Finsbury (Moore): Why do I get all the dirty work?

Morris Finsbury (Cook): Because you're incredibly stupid.

And then there was character actor Wilfred Lawson as Peacock the Butler, who stole nearly every scene he appeared in. Apparently Lawson was a long-time alcoholic and by the time he was in The Wrong Box, the condition was about to kill him. He died about three months after the movie was released. His premature decrepitude suited the character, which imdb describes as the "hilariously pixillated, decrepit butler Peacock."

Michael Finsbury: [examining a Classical Greek statue] Is it a fraud, Peacock?

Peacock: Life is a fraud, Master Michael.

I think he meant it.



Post a Comment

<< Home