The Set of 400: #238 – My Favorite Steamroller

Today! Because apes don’t read philosophy –

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Directed by Charles Crichton

Starring John Cleese (x2), Jamie Lee Curtis (x2), Kevin Kline (x3), Michael Palin (x2), Maria Aitken, Tom Georgeson, Patricia Hayes, Stephen Fry

You could make a case for a number of the Pythons having the best post-Python career – Eric Idle has worked consistently and to great effect in movies and TV, Palin has done extensive documentary work around the globe, Terry Gilliam is a world class director with a number of great films under his belt, but for my money the winner is Cleese, for two big reasons: 1) Fawlty Towers (okay, made sort of in the midst of Monty Python films in the ’70s) and 2) his writing, uncredited co-directing, and starring in this, an amazing hybrid of British and American styles of humor. This discounts his terrific cameo turn in The Great Muppet Caper, which I suppose is third.

“I thought you said the pets were dead.”

This madcap caper of diamond heists, double crosses, sex, and fish murder is powered by the tremendous performances of the lead quartet, with Kline leading the way in his Oscar winning turn as the egomaniac dimwit Otto. The various set pieces and wacky sequences deliver beginning to end, but my favorite (and let’s face it, everyone else’s too) is Otto’s fish and french fry torture of Palin’s sweet, stuttering Ken, a scene so funny that a person in Denmark famously, literally (or maybe apocryphally) died laughing in the theater. This movie was followed some ten years later by the pseudo/spiritual sequel Fierce Creatures which doesn’t entirely work. Hey, they had to give it a try, I suppose!

In addition to Kline’s Oscar win, the movie was nominated Best Screenplay, as well as Best Director (for an all-out comedy, no less!), while also garnering Best Comedy/Musical, Actor (Cleese), and Actress (Curtis) nods from the Globes, plus winning Best Actor and Supporting Actor for Cleese and Palin at the BAFTA, in addition to nominations for Curtis, Kline, Maria Aitken, Directing, Screenplay, Editing, and Best Film. But no where in the year-end galas was the honor bestowed Best Cary Grant Shoutout, for John Cleese’s choice for his character in the film to be Archie Leach, Grant’s real name. Huh!

The main four all enter or advance in the clubs today, with Curtis (#272 Halloween), Cleese and Palin (#251 Life of Brian) joining the Two-Timers, while Kline advances to the Threes following his roles in #259 Soapdish and #242 Chaplin. Spotlight!

Is Fierce Creatures better than I remember? I don’t recall it fondly

Coming tomorrow! You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles –

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