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Marvellous, Simply Marvellous
Hot Millions
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 "career girl".

(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 days.)

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 veryvery funny.

(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...)