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Sir Peter Ustinov, Dame Maggie Smith
|They mostly don't make
films like this any more, and more's the pity.
Sir Peter Ustinov and Dame Maggie Smith have a marvellous chemistry, he
as a charming embezzler/con man, she as a total disaster of a would-be
(They later worked together again in the Hercule Poirot film Evil Under the Sun, but the real fun in that
one is watching Smith and Dame Diana Rigg, playing two ex-show-girls
[one now the prosperous operator of an exclusive resort, the other the
reigning but aging grande dame of theatre] who have detested each other
since they were in chorus lines side by side, being poisonously polite
to each other.)
As the film opens, Marcus Pendleton (Ustinov) is just getting out of
gaol; the prison governor counsels him that he'd better go straight;
computers are making it impossible to get away with his style of crime
any more (that's how they got him this time), and he's getting too old
for another spell in quod.
He agrees wholeheartedly.
So wholeheartedly that, determinig that Britain's foremost
computer-anti-crime expert, Ceasar Smith (Robert Morley), is an avid
lepidopterist, he lures him away to the Amazon on a wild butterfly
chase... and takes his place, studying computers the while. (As
daunting as they semed, computers were a lot less complex in those
Hired by an American conglomerate as head of computer security for
their British operations, he is in a perfect position to, as it were,
hunt with the hounds and run with the fox.
By slipping one piece of bogus data into the computer, he lays the
basis of a pyramind scheme that will net, literally, millions. (And
remember, this was a time when the villains in Bond movies still hadn't
learnt the word "billion".)
Enter Patty Terwilliger, living in the flat next to his, and a total
disaster in terms of surviving the Real World -- as an example of the
sort of disasters that invariably befall her, she gets a job as an
omnibus conductor... and the 'bus drives away and leaves her behind.
He meets her, and, at first, simply wants to help her get on. He
arranges her a job as his secretary, figuring that she can't have too
much trouble there, right?
Did you ever see what happens when an old-fashioned carbon/film
typewriter ribbon escapes in the office? Especially if the person
trying to deal with it is manually challenged?
Well, nothing propinks like propinquity, and soon they fall in love.
One of the American execs (Bob Newhart) has a bit of feeling for her,
and a distrust of "Ceasar".
Eventualy, of course, they wind up on the run, arriving in Brazil
(offering, as it does, a large amount of no extradition treaties).
The execs (Newhart and Karl Malden) come after them, to negotiate some
sort of deal with "Smith".
(There are two sequences at Brazlian Customs, featuring Cesar Romero in
a cameo appearance, that are absolutely hilarious. One involves a
gladstone bag full of large-denomination notes in five or six
currencies, one involves a jar of instant coffee...)
And the end is a nice little twist to give it all a happy ending.
This is a film solidly in the tradition of the "Ealing" comedies
starring Alec Guinness, particuarly "The Lavendar Hill Mob"; it's
(I was inspired to hunt up this film again and review it after reading
an essay by Francois Trufautt on Max Ophul's "Lola Montez", in which he
praised Ustinov highly...)