Alison Steadman

Blame It on the Bellboy (1992, Mark Herman)

Herman opens Blame It on the Bellboy with his two weakest features—and the film’s full of weaknesses so to start with the worst ones? It’s sort of impressive he set it up to immediately stumble.

First, Andreas Katsulas’s mobster. The film takes place in Venice and Katsulas plays the only Venetian. He plays the role with an absurd New York accent. It’s an incompetent performance.

Second, Bronson Pinchot’s titular bellboy, who sets the film’s wacky events into motion by not understanding English. The surprising thing about Bellboy is the absence of a plagiarism suit as Herman rips off scenes and dialogue from “Fawlty Towers,” apparently telling Pinchot just to ape Andrew Sachs’s Manuel on that program. Unfortunately, even in someone else’s role, Pinchot can’t give a good performance.

Then the principals show up. Bryan Brown, Dudley Moore and Richard Griffiths. Griffiths is the best as minor British politician looking for sleazy romance in Venice. Brown’s an assassin, Moore’s a nebbish on assignment from a bad job. Moore actually manages to be likable; Brown barely makes an impression. In about half his scenes, he doesn’t even speak, just nods.

The female cast is Patsy Kensit, Penelope Wilton and Alison Steadman. The script’s response to the character enduring a sexual trauma is to make her comically unsympathetic. Steadman is initially treated well (and her performance is good) before Herman too makes her a target for audience laughter.

Only Steadman keeps afloat, giving the film’s best performance.

Herman makes a bad Bellboy.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Mark Herman; director of photography, Andrew Dunn; edited by Michael Ellis; music by Trevor Jones; production designer, Gemma Jackson; produced by Steve Abbott and Jennifer Howarth; released by Hollywood Pictures.

Starring Dudley Moore (Melvyn Orton), Bryan Brown (Mike Lawton), Richard Griffiths (Maurice Horton), Andreas Katsulas (Scarpa), Patsy Kensit (Caroline Wright), Alison Steadman (Rosemary Horton), Penelope Wilton (Patricia Fulford) and Bronson Pinchot (Bellboy).


Clockwise (1986, Christopher Morahan)

At some point during Clockwise, I realized it plays like a TV movie. The direction is fine–Morahan doesn’t have any sweeping vistas, but it’s not because he’s framing it like a TV movie. The script is very funny (though I guess the language is pretty clean–not sure if it’s TV clean). No, it’s John Cleese. It feels like a TV movie because of John Cleese. He’s not giving a performance, he’s doing a milder Basil Fawlty. He’s hilarious doing it, but as a narrative, he’s not playing a character. He’s “doing his thing.”

I suppose TV movie is a little harsh, thinking about it afterwards, I realized it’s a more like a Buster Keaton film, where the point of the film is Keaton and what the viewer expects from him. Same thing here. It’s clear Cleese is playing Basil from his first scene.

There’s also the ending–the film doesn’t really have one–it just stops. It has a continuous present action, taking place over approximately eight hours and when it stops… it’s a bit of a jolt. There’s still a lot more they could have done. There’s zero resolution, which is fine–the last scene sets one up for disappointment.

The supporting cast is excellent–Alison Steadman plays Cleese’s wife (getting that immediate sympathy), Sharon Maiden is good as his sidekick, Penelope Wilton is good as his ex-girlfriend who gets trapped in his antics. Only Stephen Moore falls flat.

It’s very entertaining, but distant and unsatisfying.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Christopher Morahan; written by Michael Frayn; director of photography, John Coquillon; edited by Peter Boyle; music by George Fenton; production designer, Roger Murray-Leach; produced by Michael Codron; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring John Cleese (Brian Stimpson), Alison Steadman (Gwenda Stimpson), Stephen Moore (Mr. Jolly), Sharon Maiden (Laura), Penelope Wilton (Pat Garden) and Joan Hickson (Mrs. Trellis).


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