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  Statue, The I Don't Know About Art But I Know What I LikeBuy this film here.
Year: 1971
Director: Rod Amateau
Stars: David Niven, Virna Lisi, Robert Vaughn, Ann Bell, John Cleese, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Hugh Burden, Erik Chitty, Derek Francis, Susan Travers, Desmond Walter-Ellis, David Allister, Maureen Lane, David Mills, Zoe Sallis, Graham Chapman
Genre: Comedy
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Professor Alex Bolt (David Niven) has been acclaimed around the world for inventing a language which can be spoken universally and will thus bring the nations of the globe together, especially as the language only takes a few weeks to learn. At an occasion held at the United Nations, he is lauded in front of the press and informed that he will be offered a special Nobel Prize for his efforts. As if that were not enough, his sculptress wife Rhonda (Virna Lisi) has been commissioned to craft a statue on the subject of her choosing, which will take pride of place in London. However, what she has created will raise eyebrows, not least with her husband...

Ah, the seventies, the heyday of the British sex comedy - but wait, here's one which has a higher profile cast than usual, perhaps because it was an international co-production and could afford a better quality of actor. Therefore it was David Niven and not Robin Askwith who starred in The Statue, which was scripted by Alec Coppel and veteran comedy scribe Denis Norden from Coppel's play, and as a premise it doesn't have a bad one as these things go. That figure in marble of the title is of Professor Bolt, you see, but Rhonda has decided to capture him as a nude, and the thought of a great big rendering of his good self stark bollock naked in the middle of a London square doesn't appeal to him.

It sounds as if she's undertaken the project as a form of revenge, but actually Rhonda still loves her husband, it's just that she hardly sees him now his pioneering work takes up so much of his time. There are rumblings in the story that she is sex-starved which has led her to sculpt what she does, but for whatever reason this is not followed up, and instead a different plot thread emerges for the main concern. This is that Alex realises that the manhood of the statue is not his own, and he grows paranoid that his missus is playing around and has given his form the genitalia of another man - possibly her lover. This sets in motion a runaround for Alex to try and check out as many naked men as possible.

Not because he's on the turn, but because he wants to compare his photograph of the statue's organ with the possible candidates for its inspiration. Naturally this leads to all sorts of crazy situations, the craziest of which is the images of the normally suave and sophisticated David Niven trying to sneak a peak at, and in some cases take photographs of, other men's penises. If this sounds amusing to you, then you probably have the same kind of juvenile sense of humour as the film, although oddly they don't do as much with their ideas as you might think, as while there are a few good laughs, it's not very consistent. If anything, it's downright weird, as if nobody involved thought the story through, and a scene where Alex snaps a pic of his own genitals in a photo booth is only one example of its oddity.

To pile on the strangeness, the C.I.A. get involved, as a representative of the United States government, Ray (Robert Vaughn), has to cover up the embarrassment of commissioning the statue by helping Alex in his quest, though for what reason is somewhat obscure. Also showing up is John Cleese as Bolt's psychiatrist friend who works in advertising and wants nothing to do with analysing any patients, and he and Niven make a fairly decent double act, if underused. If this is a one joke movie, then you cannot say they were not dedicated to it even if it doesn't always provide the comedy it hoped for, and it is resolved into a series of setpieces, such as a parody of the musical Hair where Alex tries to photograph the lead's privates as he disrobes on stage, or where he visits an artist at a monastery and entices him away from the quiet life with two naked women hanging from a helicopter. So if it's not hilarious, it is bizarre enough to make you feel as if you haven't wasted your time by watching it, and Riz Ortolani's theme song is insanely catchy.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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