Monday 26 November 2007

How to Murder Your Wife (1965) Richard Quine

As charmingly introduced to us while the credits roll by gentleman's gentleman Terry-Thomas, Stanley Ford is a character. He lives in a joyous house in New York, surrounded by chaos, and doesn't seem to want to grow up. He's a cartoonist, who acts out the adventures of his successful character Bash Brannigan, Secret Agent (syndicated in 463 newspapers), before actually drawing the strips from photos. The thing is that Ford and his man Charles are happily living the bachelor life, but while outrageously drunk at a friend's bachelor party he ends up getting married to the beautiful scantily clad young lady who clambers out of the cake.

She's Virna Lisi, in her English language debut (not that she speaks much English) and he's no less a comedic talent than Jack Lemmon. Unfortunately we're then treated to twenty minutes of predictable and mildly funny panic scenes mostly conducted in unsubtitled Italian. Eventually the new Mrs Ford starts learning English from late night TV shows and Stanley updates his strip to become The Brannigans, the adventures of a hen-pecked boob. There's fun here but not a lot.

Finally, after beautiful young Mrs Ford invades the sacrosanct turf of his club and gets him barred, Stanley has finally had enough and we finally get our real story. Now the Bash Brannigan strip changes again, this time to into a plan for him to murder his wife and thus restore the old Secret Agent persona. It all goes swimmingly, but of course the real wife sees the strip and leaves him, thus leaving everyone's interpretation open to the potential reality of it all. Now I know where Tom Sharpe got the story for Wilt.

The film gets better and better as it progresses and the best part comes towards the end. While Ford is on trial for the apparent murder of his real wife, he puts his lawyer and friend on the stand and tries to persuade him to press a chalk button that symbolises murdering his own wife and freeing himself within his imagination. It's a joy to watch, especially when watching with your wife. And beyond the performances of Jack Lemmon and Terry-Thomas and Claire Trevor, that's the greatest fun of all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you know if Sharpe ever acknowledged the source of his novel (Wilt)?
I don't think this movie could be released now. It's too politically incorrect.