Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Look of Love

I miss Peter Sellers. Here he is with one of his four wives, Britt Ekland (dig the dress and bag with comic strip panels). For all the indelible images of him in my cinematic memory – Clare Quilty; the trifecta of Group Captain Mandrake, President Merkin Muffly, and Dr. Strangelove himself; the real Inspector Clouseau; the double-take as he passes an enormous fish tank as Dusty Springfield warbles “The Look of Love” in Casino Royale -- I must now add his frothing at the mouth in Never Let Go, another of the Brit Noir gems at the Film Forum. He plays Lionel Meadows, the owner of a car showroom who is also running a hot car operation on the side. Fastidious and brutal, he’s brought down by a cosmetic salesman whose car has been nicked. It’s Moby Dick meets Bicycle Thief, with the operatic western ending scored to a pulsing jazz score. As he starts to yowl about how the meek little lipstick-jockey is ruining his empire, he drools a great ribbon of spit onto the hood of one of his cars. It was a $6 ticket, but it was priceless.

The theme song of this flick is a version of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again,” with the “hurrah, hurrah” replaced by a swinging “oh yeah, oh yeah”. Remember how Dr. Strangelove does that brilliant version of this song as the damaged B-52 wings it across the Soviet tundra? Sellers was supposed to play Major “King” Kong, too, but wasn’t up to the physical demands of the tight bomber set. Instead Slim Pickens does his damnedest, squeezing on his cowboy hat when the order comes down for the last tango with the Rooskies. “Shoot, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with this stuff.”


Brenda from Flatbush said...

My favorite Sellers bit ever was a brilliant cameo in "The Wrong Box" as Dr. Pratt, a broken-down physician of last resort whose squalid office is overrun with cats and kittens, one of which he uses as a blotter as he signs a phony death certificate. The clip can be found on YouTube, but outrageously, the flick is not yet on DVD. (It also has priceless work from a stellar cast including Michael Caine, Ralph Richardson, and Cooke/Moore!)

Matthew said...

Peter Cook character: "All I want is a death certificate!"
Sellers character, Dr. Pratt: "Don't we all."

Brenda, I've never heard of this movie, thank you for the reference. Someone left the Goons out in the rain.... It's about a tontine, my favorite quintessence of capitalism. In this sadly outlawed form of speculation (free the market!) a group gathers together to bet on who lives the longest, which, needless to say, brings out the very best in participants....based on a novel co-written by R.L.Stevenson!