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  Bedazzled Deal Or No Deal?
Year: 1967
Director: Stanley Donen
Stars: Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Eleanor Bron, Raquel Welch, Alba, Robert Russell, Barry Humphries, Parnell McGarry, Danièle Noël, Howard Goorney, Michael Bates, Bernard Spear, Robin Hawdon, Michael Trubshawe, Evelyn Moore, Charles Lloyd Pack, Lockwood West
Genre: Comedy, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 5 votes)
Review: Life is not going well for Stanley Moon (Dudley Moore), a short order cook in a Wimpy burger bar who has no prospects, and worse than that for him, no love life. His object of desire is Margaret Spencer (Eleanor Bron), who is a waitress where he works, but he does not have the courage to approach her and let her know how he feels. This makes him so depressed that he decides that there is only one solution to his dilemma and that is to commit suicide, but when he gets the rope tied to a pipe and the other end around his neck the pipe breaks and he is soaked. Enter one George Spiggott (Peter Cook), aka The Devil himself...

Cook and Moore had already hit the big time as part of the satirical stage show Beyond the Fringe, and their television series had become must-see among the hip and happening, so the next big step for the duo was to make a film. Having come up with a story between them, Cook promptly went off and wrote the script himself, eschewing any help from Moore as if he wanted to make sure what went up on the screen was as perfect as he possibly could make it with no interference, and to direct they got seasoned Hollywood veteran Stanley Donen for that international touch.

Donen brought a sprightliness to the production that was familiar from his musicals, but the humour here was most definitely British. Although you might have expected Cook to give himself the plum role, and his Satan does show off his best qualities as a comedian, it's actually Moore who takes centre stage for much of the film, so you could say their double act evened itself out after a fashion. In a manner similar to their television sketches, it was Moore who was subservient to Cook, only here it was taken to more of an extreme with Stanley practically being led around by the nose by the conniving but amiable George.

Their relationship is an interesting one, and Cook does not entirely ditch the sketch show format as George offers Stanley a chance at happiness with seven wishes. Of course, the cook's idea of what will make him happy is subverted every time by the situations the Devil lands him in, so when near the beginning he asks to be more erudite so he can impress Margaret, he ends up knowing plenty of big words but being no better at getting her into bed, and has to end the scenario before the police arrive with a well-blown raspberry (this is the way George has told him to cancel any wish he is unhappy with).

And so it goes on, with Stanley wishing to be married to an eager and willing Margaret, only for her to be eager and willing with other men instead of him, or, when he comes up with the idea of being in a simple and romantic relationship with the woman of his dreams, she ends up married to George, who is so nice that their affair is called off because the guilt is unbearable. Bedazzled won mixed reviews on its first release, but now is better regarded, perhaps because of the respect these comics attract, but also because it's refreshingly inventive and witty; almost intellectual in its theology, in fact. So God is vain and distant as we get to like George even as he carries out petty pranks in the name of evil, because he is a charismatic rebel. And even though they supposedly are strictly business partners, he and Stanley actually become firm friends, with Stanley forcing the Devil to heights of ingenuity: they get on famously, and Bedazzled ends up surprisingly touching along with the regular laughs as Stanley outgrows George in an oddly poignant conclusion. In its way, it's a minor classic. Music by Moore.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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