In lieu of the Saturday Matinee, this review is being submitted as part of the “Movie Scientist Blogathon: The Good, the Mad, the Lonely”, hosted by Christina Wehner and Ruth of Silver Screenings. In the case of this film, it would be a mad scientist.
When I first saw this movie on TV, years and years and years and years ago, I was just a little kid. And I thought it was the funniest film ever.
Little did I realize that this film featured some of Britain’s top talent—apart from the Fab Four, that is.
For instance, the movie features an Eastern cult led by none other than Leo McKern. I came to know McKern through his work on The Prisoner and Rumpole of the Bailey.
But the focus of this post (per this blogathon) is on the mad scientist, Professor Foot (played by Victor Spinetti). Let me explain a bit about the plot and how Foot The Mad Scientist fits in it.
The Eastern cult headed by Rumpole Leo McKern as the great Swami Clang is on the verge of murdering sacrificing a fair maiden, painted red (per the cult rules), when it comes to light that she isn’t wearing the sacrificial ring (because red paint just isn’t enough). The ring was secretly sent to Ringo in a fan letter and, being named Ringo, he simply had to put it on.
The movie is essentially a feature-length set of absurdist sketches, loosely-strung together, in which Ringo become’s the cult’s target and the Beatles work together to get the ring off his finger.
They resort to consulting a jeweler, who fails, as John Lennon is quick to point out. It’s then that they approach Foot and his hapless assistant, Algernon.
After encountering the unbelievable resistance to being removed from Ringo’s digit, Foot speculates (between grumbling asides about the poor state of British technology and “the brain drain”) that, “With a ring like that I could dare I say it? Rule the world.”
And so Foot and Clang both go after the Fab Four, using various lame attempts to whack sacrifice Ringo or, at least, cut off his finger. The band seeks refuge all over from Scotland Yard to the Bahamas.
The Beatles claimed the film was inspired by the Marx Brothers classic comedy Duck Soup. It was also a satire of the James Bond franchise. The humour was also strongly influenced by The Goon Show, which is hardly surprising, since that show also paved the way for Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
It is an over-the-top bit of surreal and anarchic fun. And Foot gets some of the funniest lines (as do the Beatles, of course—not to be outdone, right?):
Professor Foot: MIT was after me, you know. Wanted me to rule the world for them.
Professor Foot: He’s an idiot. Degree in woodwork. I ask you!
Professor Foot: It’s the brain drain, his brain’s draining.
And it’s Foot who plants “the fiendish thingy” in the curling stone!
This film is a must-see. I’ll never be able to hear the words “White Cliffs of Dover” without thinking of it.
Highly recommended if you like Monty Python, the Marx Brothers, or other absurdist humorists.