HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
Man Standing Next, The
Rock, Paper and Scissors
Batman: The Long Halloween Part One
Salaam Bombay!
Boss Level
My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To
Edge of the World
PTU
Superdeep
Insignificance
Treasure City
Piccadilly
Parallel
Invasión
Shiva Baby
Flowers of Shanghai
War and Peace
Agony
Merrily We Go to Hell
Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie's Dead Aunt)
Amusement Park, The
Lemebel
Hands of Orlac, The
Cats
Death has Blue Eyes
Caveat
Kala Azar
Duplicate
Flashback
Gunda
After Love
Earwig and the Witch
Zebra Girl
Skull: The Mask
Vanquish
Bank Job
Drunk Bus
Homewrecker
State Funeral
Army of the Dead
   
 
Newest Articles
That Ol' Black Magic: Encounter of the Spooky Kind on Blu-ray
She's Evil! She's Brilliant! Basic Instinct on Blu-ray
Hong Kong Dreamin': World of Wong Kar Wai on Blu-ray
Buckle Your Swash: The Devil-Ship Pirates on Blu-ray
Way of the Exploding Fist: One Armed Boxer on Blu-ray
A Lot of Growing Up to Do: Fast Times at Ridgemont High on Blu-ray
Oh My Godard: Masculin Feminin on Blu-ray
Let Us Play: Play for Today Volume 2 on Blu-ray
Before The Matrix, There was Johnny Mnemonic: on Digital
More Than Mad Science: Karloff at Columbia on Blu-ray
Indian Summer: The Darjeeling Limited on Blu-ray
3 from 1950s Hollyweird: Dr. T, Mankind and Plan 9
Meiko Kaji's Girl Gangs: Stray Cat Rock on Arrow
Having a Wild Weekend: Catch Us If You Can on Blu-ray
The Drifters: Star Lucie Bourdeu Interview
Meiko Kaji Behind Bars: Female Prisoner Scorpion on Arrow
The Horror of the Soviets: Viy on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Tarka the Otter and The Belstone Fox
Network Double Bills: All Night Long and Ballad in Blue
Chew Him Up and Spit Him Out: Romeo is Bleeding on Blu-ray
British Body Snatchers: They Came from Beyond Space on Blu-ray
Bzzzt: Pulse on Blu-ray
The Tombs Will Be Their Cities: Demons and Demons 2 on Arrow
Somebody Killed Her Husband: Charade on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Maroc 7 and Invasion
   
 
  Wrong Box, The Better Off Dead
Year: 1966
Director: Bryan Forbes
Stars: John Mills, Ralph Richardson, Michael Caine, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Nanette Newman, Tony Hancock, Peter Sellers, Wilfrid Lawson, Thorley Walters, Gerald Sim, Irene Handl, Cicely Courtneidge, Norman Rossington, John Le Mesurier, Norman Bird
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 4 votes)
Review: Many years ago a tontine was set up for a class of well off children at their private school, which dictated they each would have a thousand pounds paid into a fund, and after decades of financial interest the one pupil left alive would be awarded all the money that had been collected. So time went by, and the ex-schoolboys went the way of all flesh eventually until there were only two left: the Finsbury brothers, Masterman (John Mills) and Joseph (Ralph Richardson), who in spite of living right next door to one another, had not spoken in forty years...

So the question was, who would pop their clogs first? And by fair means or foul? Michael Caine played Michael, the innocent grandson of Masterman, and according to him The Wrong Box was a modest hit around the world - except in Britain, where audiences turned their noses up at it, apparently because they recognised nothing of the attitudes depicted as frightfully English here. Basically Caine was right, if this had been made twenty or thirty years later it would have been accused of playing up the heritage cinema aspect of its presentation to bring in the audiences, a style of film which had just as many opponents as it did adherents, in its native land at any rate.

It had been based on a story co-written by Robert Louis Stevenson, not an author celebrated for his great sense of humour, but what was more promising was a fully qualified cast, littered with stars and others who if they were not international household names, had proven their worth in comedy for quite a while prior to making this. The two featured guest stars were Tony Hancock as the detective who appears late on to be perplexed at any attempt to sort out what has become an unholy mess, and Peter Sellers as the doctor who provides a phoney death certificate to one of the nephews of the Finsburys. Hancock was trying big screen stardom but was well on his way out, and Sellers was seeing his fame increase around the world.

Of the two, Sellers came off best, making quite a lot out of not very much and illustrating what a real talent for this kind of humour could do with even the slimmest of comic pickings. Alas, it was not the case with the other cast members, mainly due to the fact that, to be fair, their director Bryan Forbes showed absolutely no flair for comedy on this evidence, with every scene timed slightly off. He looked to be aiming for subtlety, a muted humour that would build to a suitably hilarious climax, but just about every line no matter how potentially funny simply fell flat as a pancake in the morbid and chilly air of the surroundings. About the best thing in this (appropriately?) funereal atmosphere you could say about it was the cinematography and production design were very handsome.

But when you're reduced to praising that about a comedy instead of the jokes, you could see there was an issue here. If mere mention of the word "trousers" in a Victorian setting was enough to set you off giggling, then The Wrong Box would likely find favour with you, but for everyone else it was a source of some dismay to see such great figures of British humour such as Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (as the scheming nephews) floundering as if in a sketch from their television show that had dragged on far too long. Certainly there was a lot you could have sent up about this type of vintage cinema relying on the past for its atmosphere, but here the strain was on display, not least when they fell back on a hearse race for the grand finale, again, a joke which could have been amusing but like everything else here rendered laborious. What it was more like was a would-be classy variation on the period caper movies of the day, but it was a shame so little about it satisfied. Nice music by John Barry, though.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

This review has been viewed 4503 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (2)
Posted by:
Andrew Pragasam
Date:
22 Apr 2012
  Has its moments, mostly down to Peter Sellers, Ralph Richardson and a game Michael Caine, but Bryan Forbes leaden direction leaves this straining for whimsy. Am I the only one who finds the concept of the tontine completely ridiculous? Or was that the point?
       
Posted by:
Graeme Clark
Date:
22 Apr 2012
  I suppose it was ridiculous, because by the time it had been won the last one alive would likely be too ancient to enjoy it.
       


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
Andrew Pragasam
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
  Sdfadf Rtfgsdf
   

 

Last Updated: