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  Monte Carlo or Bust Vroom
Year: 1969
Director: Ken Annakin
Stars: Bourvil, Lando Buzzanca, Walter Chiari, Peter Cook, Tony Curtis, Mireille Darc, Marie Dubois, Gert Fröbe, Susan Hampshire, Jack Hawkins, Nicoletta Machiavelli, Dudley Moore, Peer Schmidt, Eric Sykes, Terry-Thomas, Hattie Jacques, Derren Nesbitt
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: The time is nigh for the famed car rally to Monte Carlo, which begins at various points around Europe, heads to the meeting place in the Alps - a hotel there - and then turns from an endurance test to a race to the finish line. We will follow a selection of the competitors as they endeavour to win, including one who is out to succeed by fair means or foul; mostly foul as he has recently inherited his father's car business, but finds he must share it with a fellow who won half in a card game. He is Sir Cuthbert Ware Armitage (Terry-Thomas) and accepts a bet to enter the race to see who wins the whole business...

If this sounds kind of familiar, it's because it was an amalgam of two popular sixties hits, The Great Race, which as the name suggests featured a big cross country car competition, and Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, which by no coincidence was made by many of the people who came up with this little item. Well, maybe not so little, as it was still rather large and unwieldy, a series of sketches more than a slick story that showcased some of Europe's comedic talent, this being a co-production of various countries around that continent. Oh, and Tony Curtis, your imported American star to provide a draw for those overseas.

Such is the cumbersome structure of this film that we only reach the race itself about a third of the way into the running time, as instead of introducing us to the characters as they travelled, they were brought in via a series of sequences to make what sounds simple needlessly complicated. This was a real jumble, apparently taking its cue from another elephantine, starry affair, the one that began the fad for such things which was It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World - Terry-Thomas was in that one too, although here he's playing his more usual cad role, much like he did in Flying Machines. He even had support from Eric Sykes yet again, as the assistant blackmailed into helping his nefarious schemes.

It was the Brits who emerged from this best, as they were given the most interesting things to do. Curtis was strictly on matinee idol duties, in spite of a pair of glasses which he sported throughout and a few bits of business with card tricks, and the French competitors led by Mireille Darc were soley present to be token women, with Darc even getting a brief topless scene when they all go for a swim. The Italians fared little better, with Lando Buzzanca and Walter Chiari living up to (or down to) their national stereotypes, mainly thinking about the ladies, and Gert Fröbe represented Germany as a less military character than you might have expected from him, so he did get to be cheerful as he played the buffoon.

As for those Brits, Terry-Thomas could have played this kind of role in his sleep, but was no less appreciated for that, and Susan Hampshire turned up as Curtis's hitchhiker who may not be all she seems: she's bright and a little daffy, doing something with not a lot as the requisite love interest. But for comedy fans the presence of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore may well provide the most interest as it may not have been their finest moment, but it was by no means their worst as they filled the roles of the terribly English Empire builders, and invention builders, with some grace, even in their most slapstick scenes. Their dialogue is the best at least, as if you were able to ignore the star wattage - legendary French comedian Bourvil showed up for a rare English language appearance too - you would notice that it was really the stuntmen who did the most impressive work here, as the actors were constantly cut away from to the racing and crashing. It was ideal for whiling away a couple of hours without any thought, but not much more than that. Musc by Ron Goodwin, with Jimmy Durante singing the theme.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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