Tag Archives: Peter Ustinov

The Set of 400: #51 – My Favorite Champagne Improvement

Today! Because I wish I were you people seeing this for the first time –

The Great Muppet Caper (1981)

Directed by Jim Henson

Starring Jim Henson (x2), Frank Oz (x9), Jerry Nelson (x5), Dave Goelz (x5), Richard Hunt (x2), Charles Grodin (x2), Diana Rigg (x2), Jack Warden (x4), John Cleese (x4), Peter Ustinov (x2), Peter Falk (x5), Robert Morley, Steve Whitmire (x5), Louise Gold (x3), Caroll Spinney, Erica Creer, Kate Howard, Della Finch

The second feature Muppet film and the first released after The Muppet Show ended, The Great Muppet Caper had a higher degree of difficulty than any other film in the series, before or since. Figure, it’s the only non-adaptation film that doesn’t in some way incorporate putting on a show or show business as the backdrop (Muppets From Space is the only other one close, and that has a lot of Piggy’s aspiring journalism career at center). So they’ve crammed the familiar characters into oddball new roles – weirdly, again, journalism, but of the print variety, plus hotel management – albeit with their same names, and more fourth wall breaking than any other movie to explain this conceit. It had only been two years since the smash hit original Muppet Movie, and they didn’t have terrific Paul Williams songs to eat up a bunch of the run time (Muppet Caper‘s songs are still great, though). This one needed tons of jokes and cameos and a strong narrative to succeed, and it came through on all counts.

As a kid, I probably liked this Muppet outing best, or had it in a very close contest with Takes Manhattan. It’s a lot sillier than the original film, but still keeps the gang largely together unlike Manhattan. The England setting produces a bunch of fun gags (like The Muppet Show, Muppet Caper was filmed in and near London) and it features the most action packed finale of the franchise – a sequence not even attempted to be equaled by any successive movie until Most Wanted – which largely functioned as the Muppet Caper to 2011’s Muppets as Muppet Movie. Does that makes sense? I didn’t get to talk about Most Wanted on this list because it missed the cut off date, but I’m afraid people skipped it, as it got lost in theaters. Go watch Muppets Most Wanted, it’s pretty fun.

It’s the Kermit-goes-to-a-Siberian-prison-camp-run-by-Tina-Fey film you never knew you needed

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The Set of 400: #90 – My Favorite Cross-Dressing Fortune Tellers

Today! Because they call me a slob, but I do my job –

Robin Hood (1973)

Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman (x3)

Starring Brian Bedford (x2), Peter Ustinov, Phil Harris (x2), Andy Devine (x2), Roger Miller, Terry-Thomas, Monica Evans, Carole Shelley, Pat Buttram, Ken Curtis (x2), George Lindsey, J. Pat O’Malley (x3), Barbara Luddy (x2)

I never considered myself a particularly big fan of Robin Hood as a character or the rote Robin Hood story, which doesn’t vary much from film to film, but lo and behold, here is our third foray with the Merry Men on this list. Sure, the first one was #395 Mel Brooks’ Men in Tights parody, and the second was the primary source of that comedy – #293 Kevin Costner’s Prince of Thieves, so I guess this is the only one harkening back to the more traditional variety of forest rogue, the Richard Greene sort. The Errol Flynn/Olivia de Havilland/Basil Rathbone classic version did almost fight its way onto this list, and I’m kinda glad it didn’t in retrospect. 1% of the films being Robin Hoods seems like a lot.

It does feature the best sword fight in the franchise

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