A young woman dances amongst the trees of the forest until she comes to a lake. As she begins to undress, the director appears and points out that this has nothing to do with the film, he just told her he could put her in pictures. Then he introduces the stories, seven of them, each corresponding with one of the deadly sins.
What is it about television talent that doesn't successfully cross over to the big screen? The comedians and actors in The Magnificent Deadly Sins are all seasoned players, and to be fair did come up with some quality movie performances elsewhere, but there's a cheap look to the proceedings that can't help but remind you of better sketch shows of the small screen, to which this film fails to favourably compare. Maybe it's the fault of the writers, who despite having scripted some classic comedy don't deliver the goods here. However, don't turn away from it too readily, there are a few compensations.
The first two stories suffer the same problem in that their main characters aren't the ones exhibiting the vices. Bruce Forsyth, in a story from John Esmonde and Bob Larbey of The Good Life fame, plays a chauffeur to an avaricious businessman who demands he retrieve a fifty pence piece from a drain. Then Harry Secombe, in a story by Dave Freeman, is a henpecked husband whose envious, newly-rich wife eggs him on to persuade a couple to sell their desirable home. It's nice to see the personalities in these segments, but that's about it, and having Secombe in an "I'm your new neighbour" blackface gag isn't the greatest joke in the world.
Next, in "Gluttony" by Graham Chapman and Barry Cryer, Leslie Phillips seems a strange choice to play a compulsive overeater, being as he is pretty slim, and even stranger that he should reject the advances of Julie Ege because his mind is on his food. I'm very impressed at him catching the toast on the plate, though. For "Lust", by Marty Feldman and Graham Stark, Harry H. Corbett is a lonely man looking for love (but not really lust, to be honest), and Corbett's downtrodden persona is well suited to the tale - a bit too well suited, as this one's more depressing than funny.
Ray Galton and Alan Simpson have a clever way of portraying "Pride", with upper class Ian Carmichael and working class Alfie Bass as two drivers who refuse to let the other pass on a narrow country lane. It's still not all that amusing, but it's worthwhile. Then arrives probably the best of the bunch, Spike Milligan's take on "Sloth", a surreal, silent comedy-style string of short sketches with a fixation on walnuts. This is just about the only one that raises a handful of laughs.
Lastly, Ronald Fraser and Arthur Howard play two old men who have a feud with the local park keeper, played by Stephen Lewis in full Blakey from "On the Buses" mode. This tale of "Wrath" from Cryer and Chapman leads to a murder plot, but not much else. Each segment is linked by the director in cartoon form, animated by Bob Godfrey, but these, like the live action business, are all laboured, and frankly it's all too dingy to be much fun. A nice try, good to see all those famous faces, and altogether not a bad idea, but the inspiration wasn't there. Music by Roy Budd. Also with Patrick Newell, Bill Pertwee, Anouska Hempel, Robert Gillespie, Melvyn Hayes, Peter Butterworth, Feldman and Bob Guccione (!).