Saturday, 5 February 2011

The Wrong Box (1966)

The Wrong Box is a British farce comedy starring Michael Caine, Nanette Newman, Dudley Moore and Dudley Moore, along with a whole host of star names from the world of British comedy at the time. It revolves around a "tontine" being made for a dozen schoolboys; the idea is that a huge lump sum awaits the winner; the last person int eh group to die, basically. In strange circumstances they get killed one by one (though it is only vaguely hinted at that perhaps foul play was involved; the ridiculous deaths seemed to be purely for comic value). 

Eventually only two are left - two brothers, Masterman and Joseph Finsbury (John Mills and Ralph Richardson).  These brothers haven't spoken to each other in decades, but with Masterman said to be on his deathbed, suddenly Joseph - an intellectual who can talk anyone within earshot into submission due to never stopping for a second - wants to see Masterman again. 

His devious sons, Morris (Peter Cook) and John (Dudley Moore) are out to get the Tontine for themselves, but something goes horribly wrong... or at least they think it does.  Meanwhile Michael and Julia Finsbury (Michael Caine and Nanetet Newman) carry on an improbable romance, thinking that it can never be - but it turns out that Michael (and pretty much everyone else, it seems at one point!) is actually an orphan.  Julia also has a thing about being caught by the Bournemouth Strangler and is constantly screaming at small incidents as a result.

With dead bodies, not quite dead and not at all dead bodies turning up and being thought to be someone of another identity, it's a chaotic affair that often raises a wry smile and occasionally becomes very funny.  It's never exactly riotous or full of belly laughs, but it's very enjoyable and the cast play it admirably straight, though in the case of Caine / Newman, I thought they perhaps underplayed a bit too much.  (Is that an oxymoron?)  At any rate, The Wrong Box is frequently a funny film, even if it never really becomes hilarious.

The Wrong Box was directed by Bryan Forbes (The Stepford Wives).

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