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  Soft Beds, Hard Battles Between The Whores
Year: 1974
Director: Roy Boulting
Stars: Peter Sellers, Lila Kedrova, Curt Jurgens, Béatrice Romand, Jenny Hanley, Gabriella Licudi, Françoise Pascal, Rex Stallings, Rula Lenska, Daphne Lawson, Hylette Adolphe, Vernon Dobtcheff, Thorley Walters, Timothy West, Philip Madoc, Basil Dignam
Genre: Comedy, WarBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Let us travel back to 1940 when the Second World War was dominating Europe, and in Paris the Nazi Occupation was beginning. But in one of the city's brothels, Madame Grenier (Lila Kedrova) was oblivious to all this as long as she had clients for her prostitutes to attend to, and more importantly be paid by. Soldiers of every rank were regular visitors to the house, including French General Latour (Peter Sellers), an elderly man of the military who was today having one last fling before heading to Dunkirk, very aware that there were bad times ahead for the Allies fighting against the German war machine. But one of those allies was Major Robinson (also Sellers), and he was not above using outright subterfuge in his battle...

Peter Sellers may have been one of the most prominent stars to lose himself in his roles, but he did so to such an extent that it had driven him insane, tortured by his confused identity and a myriad superstitions and rules he insisted on living by. Therefore it was poor old Roy Boulting, working as usual with his brother John, who when he worked with him for the final time, anticipating a hit on the scale of the other times they had teamed up, ended up describing Soft Beds, Hard Battles as the worst experience of his career such were the impossible demands and whims of Sellers, including his determination to play as many parts in the film as possible to demonstrate his wide range.

He had played this card before on other films, following in the footsteps of his idol Alec Guinness who also had a habit of disappearing into his roles, but by this stage it was less a show of talent and more a show of gimmickry that informed the style he employed, and with the best will in the world you would really only observe it was more an illustration of Sellers' way with accents and indeed funny voices that was on show here. Certainly there was makeup as well, but none of it very convincing, and the impression was more that he took the job to have the opportunity to play the hated Adolf Hitler. Considering Sellers was Jewish, the fact he was so keen to essay this mortal enemy of his people was perhaps not the healthiest psychological choice.

You had to say, for the brief time his Fuehrer impersonation was on the screen, he had obviously studied newsreels of the Second World War for he had the mannerisms pretty accurately delivered, though vocally he was not so strong, hence his Hitler barely says more than a handful of sentences. Was this enough to hang a whole movie on? Certainly not, as well as a wartime comedy this was part of the movement of British sex comedies into the bargain, so you had the likes of Jenny Hanley, Françoise Pascal and Rula Lenska, all very desirable actresses of their day, lounging around in various states of undress as the plot contrived to inform us that brothels were as important part of the conflict as the artillery.

Never mind the armies marching on their stomach, it was a different part of the body that concerned them here, and Madame Grenier's establishment sees so much interest from the occupying Nazis that the Allies persuade her to join their efforts and provide a Nazi assassination service. Now, prostitutes can be funny in theory, but no matter their victims prostitutes murdering people was rather grim and tended to bring home to the viewer the nasty business of what the war was all about, and it wasn't funny accents or men dressed as nuns. Not even the method of dispatch, a trap bed which sent the victims flying down a shaft to break their necks, was slapstick enough to be amusing, and the desperation the filmmakers were feeling was palpable when you can't imagine even the cast were finding the jokes funny. Well, maybe Sellers was entertaining himself, but only his diehard fans who would not hear a word against him, genius that he could be, would get anything out of this. Music by Neil Rhoden.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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