Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Peter Sellers as Dr. Pratt
THE WRONG BOX (1966). Director: Bryan Forbes.

"My father was a missionary. He was eaten by his bible class." 

In this highly amusing black comedy, two elderly brothers are all that remain of a bunch of boys who were involved with a financial "tontine:" the surviving member of the group will receive all the money and the interest accrued. The film begins with a scene of these young boys, who seem to have no idea of what it's all about, gathered in a room with their guardians and being told about the tontine. Next follows a sequence showing how these now-grown boys meet their often untimely demises in generally comic and unusual ways. The main story follows the misadventures of Masterman Finsbury (John Mills), who has been in bed dying for decades, and his hated brother Joseph (Sir Ralph Richardson) -- a "boring pedantic old poop" -- as Masterman tries to murder Joseph [in a very funny sequence] and their assorted relatives conspire against each other or wonder what the hell is going on. Michael Caine is Masterman's nephew, and Dudley Moore and Peter Cook are the nephews of Joseph, with Nanette Newman playing Joseph's adopted daughter, who adores Caine and vice versa. There's a mix up with a dead body on a train and a corpse in a box, and while after a bit you may not quite follow everything going on, there are plenty of laughs in both the dialogue and performances. While his part is relatively small, Peter Sellers almost steals the picture in his hilarious, brilliant turn as drunken felonious old quack Dr. Pratt. The entire cast is marvelous, including Wilfrid Lawson, who died that year at sixty-six, as the butler Peacock. [Lawson plays a much older character and is very convincing]. The climax goes on too long, but this is a clever and very funny movie with a top-notch cast. Mills so loses himself in his character that you might not realize that it's him. And Sellers! Sublime!

Verdict: All this and Sellers, too! ***.

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