After the Fox
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|After the Fox|
Theatrical release poster by Frank Frazetta
|Directed by||Vittorio De Sica|
|Produced by||John Bryan|
|Written by||Neil Simon
Vittorio De Sica
|Music by||Burt Bacharach
|Editing by||Russell Lloyd|
|Distributed by||Delgate / Nancy Enterprises
|Running time||103 min|
|Box office||$2,296,970 (US/ Canada)|
After the Fox (Italian: Caccia alla volpe) is a 1966 British-Italian comedy film starring Peter Sellers and directed by Vittorio De Sica. The screenplay is in English, by Neil Simon and De Sica's longtime collaborator Cesare Zavattini.
Despite its notable credits, the film was poorly received when it was released. It has since gained a cult following for its numerous in-jokes skewering pompous directors (including Cecil B. de Mille, John Huston, Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, and De Sica himself), vain film stars, their starstruck audiences, and pretentious film critics. The film was remade in 2013 in Hindi as Tees Maar Khan.
A short cartoon teaser shows the "Fox" trying to steal gold and various police forces trying to stop him. The story begins in Cairo with the hijacking of US$3 million in gold bullion. The thieves need a way to smuggle the two tons of gold bars into Europe. There are only four master criminals considered able to smuggle the gold: one is French (but so crippled he can barely move his wheelchair); one is Irish (but so nearsighted that he is arrested after trying to hold up a police station instead of a bank); one is German (but so fat he can barely get through a door). The only man cunning enough to outwit Interpol is Aldo Vanucci (Peter Sellers), also known as The Fox, a master criminal with a talent for disguise.
Vanucci, who is in prison at the time of the robbery, knows about the smuggling contract but is reluctant to accept it, because he does not want to break the heart of his mother and young sister Gina (Britt Ekland). But when his three sidekicks inform him that Gina has grown up and doesn't always return home from school, an enraged Vanucci vows to break out of prison. He succeeds by making the police believe that he is the prison doctor who has been tied up by Vanucci. When the guards accidentally bring the doctor and Vanucci face to face with each other, Vanucci rips off his false beard and flees. Once out, he goes home to his mother, who considers him to be a disgrace, and sister, who aspires to become a film actress. He makes contact with Okra (Akim Tamiroff), the original gold robber, and accepts the contract for smuggling the gold inside Italy on the condition that he will get 50 percent. Two policemen are constantly on his trail and Vanucci has to use many disguises and tricks to throw them off his trail. During one such escapade in a cinema, it suddenly strikes him that police offer protection to film crews. This idea forms the basis of his master plan.
Vanucci poses as an Italian neo-realist director named Federico Fabrizi. He plans to bring the gold ashore in broad daylight as part of a scene in an avant garde film. To give the picture an air of legitimacy, he cons over-the-hill American matinee idol Tony Powell (Victor Mature) to star in the film, which is blatantly titled The Gold of Cairo. Fabrizi then enlists the starstruck population of Sevalio, a tiny fishing village, to unload the shipment. The plan works without any hiccups and the gold arrives safely inside Italy. Unfortunately for Vanucci, Okra double-crosses him and tries to get away with all the gold, without giving him his share; in a Wacky Races like car chase, Okra; Vanucci; Powell and the Police chase one another through a smoke screen and all end up crashing into each other. After Vanucci is caught, all the misled villagers who helped him are accused of being co-conspirators, and Vanucci's "film" is used as evidence against them in court (an Italian film critic comically proclaims that it's a masterpiece). Vanucci suffers a crisis of conscience and accepts his guilt in court, thereby vindicating the villagers, but proclaiming that he will escape from prison once again.
The film's final scene shows Vanucci escaping from prison yet again by impersonating the prison doctor-this time he ties the doctor up and takes his place. He then walks out when the prison guards think the doctor is Vanucci. As he attempts to remove the fake beard that is part of his disguise, he discovers that the beard is real, meaning that the "wrong man" has escaped from prison.
- Peter Sellers as Aldo Vanucci/prison doctor
- Victor Mature as Tony Powell
- Britt Ekland as Gina Vanucci / Gina Romantica
- Martin Balsam as Harry Granoff
- Akim Tamiroff as Okra
- Maria Grazia Buccella as Okra's sister
- Maurice Denham as The Chief of Interpol
- Paolo Stoppa as Polio
- Tino Buazzelli as Siepi
- Mac Ronay as Carlo
- Lydia Brazzi as Mamma Vanucci
- Lando Buzzanca as The Police Chief
- Tiberio Murgia as 1st Detective
- Francesco De Leone as 2nd Detective
This was Neil Simon's first screenplay. At the time, he had three hit shows running on Broadway: Little Me; Barefoot in the Park; and The Odd Couple. Simon has said that he originally wanted to write a spoof of art house films such as Last Year at Marienbad and Michelangelo Antonioni's films, but the story evolved into the idea of a film-within-a-film. Aldo Vanucci brings to mind the fast-talking cons of Phil Silvers and the brilliant dialects of Sid Caesar. This is probably no coincidence since Simon wrote for both on television.
In his 1996 memoir Rewrites, Simon recalled that an agent suggested Peter Sellers for the lead, while Simon preferred casting "an authentic Italian" such as Marcello Mastroianni or Vittorio Gassman. Sellers loved the script, however, and it was he who asked Vittorio De Sica to direct.
De Sica's interest in the project surprised Simon, who at first dismissed it as a way for the director to support his gambling habit. But De Sica said he saw a social statement to be made, namely how the pursuit of money corrupts even the arts. Simon believed De Sica also relished the opportunity to take potshots at the Italian film industry. De Sica insisted that Simon collaborate with Cesare Zavattini. Since neither spoke the other's language, the two writers worked through interpreters. "He had very clear, concise, and intelligent comments that I could readily understand and agree with", Simon wrote. Still, Simon worried that inserting social statements into what he considered a broad farce wouldn't do justice to either. Yet After The Fox does touch on themes found in De Sica's earlier work, namely disillusionment and dignity.
Peter Sellers said that his main reason for doing the film was the chance to work with Vittorio De Sica. Sellers said he relied on De Sica to keep his characterizations on the mark.
Victor Mature, who had retired five years earlier, was lured back to the screen by the prospect of parodying himself as Tony Powell. Mature was always a self-effacing star who had no delusions about his own work. At the height of his fame, he had applied for membership in the Los Angeles Country Club, but was told that the club did not accept actors. He replied: "Have you seen my work?" One of Tony's lines must have struck a chord with the then 53-year-old actor: "I'd rather get laughs than sympathy." A clip from Mature's 1949 film Easy Living (in which he plays an aging football star) appears in the film.
According to Neil Simon, Sellers demanded that his wife, Britt Ekland, be cast as Gina, the Fox's sister. Ekland married Sellers in 1964. Ekland's looks and accent were wrong for the role, but to keep Sellers happy De Sica acquiesced. Still, Simon recalled, Ekland worked hard on the film. Sellers and Ekland made one other film together, The Bobo (1967).
Also featured are: Akim Tamiroff as Okra, the mastermind of the heist in Cairo; Martin Balsam as Tony's agent, Harry; Maria Grazia Buccella as Okra's voluptuous accomplice; Lydia Brazzi as Mama Vanucci; and Lando Buzzanca as the chief of police in Sevalio. Simon recalled that the Italian supporting cast learned their lines phonetically. Tamiroff had been working on and off for Orson Welles filming Don Quixote, playing Sancho Panza. The film was never finished. Buccella was a former Miss Italy (1959) and placed third in the Miss Europe pageant. She was considered for the role of Domino in Thunderball. Lydia Brazzi was Rossano Brazzi's wife. She was not a professional actress.
The budget for the film was US$3 million, which included location shooting in the village of Sant' Angelo on Ischia in the Bay of Naples as well as the construction of an exact replica of Rome's most famous street, the Via Veneto, on the Cinecittà lot. The Sevalio sequences were shot during the height of the tourist season. Reportedly the villagers of Sant' Angelo were so busy accommodating tourists that they had no time to appear as extras in the film. The extras were brought in from a neighboring village.
Simon lamented that De Sica insisted on using his own film editors, two middle-aged women who did not speak English and thus did not understand the jokes. The film was later re-cut in Rome by one of John Huston's favorite film editors, Russell Lloyd, but Simon believes more funny bits "are lying in a cutting room in Italy." The voices and accents of the Italian comic actors were dubbed in London, mainly by Robert Rieti, and edited in Rome by Malcolm Cooke, who had been a post-sync dialogue editor on Lawrence of Arabia.
Simon summed up his opinion of the film: "To give the picture its due, it was funny in spots, innovative in its plot, and was well-intentioned. But a hit picture? Uh-uh...Still today, After the Fox remains a cult favorite."
Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote the scores and the title songs for both films. The title song "After the Fox", as performed by The Hollies and Sellers, was released as a single in September 1966 (b/w "The Fox-Trot", United Artists UP1152) but did not chart.
The film has some kinship with What's New Pussycat?, which was released the previous year and also starred Sellers. That film was the first written by Woody Allen who, like Neil Simon, had been a staff writer for Sid Caesar. Even the advertising tagline on the posters and trailer for After The Fox proclaimed, "You Caught The Pussycat...Now Chase The Fox!". The poster art for both films was illustrated by Frank Frazetta.
Considering this was Simon's first original screenplay, parallels can be drawn with fellow Sid-Caesar-staff-writer Mel Brooks's first screenplay, The Producers, satirizing the Broadway aspect of show business and also featuring con-men and a final courtroom scene followed by a jail scene.
The scene in the film where Aldo speaks to Okra through the beautiful Maria Grazia Buccella inspired a similar scene in Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002), in which Austin Powers talks to Foxxy Cleopatra through the Nathan Lane character.
- "Big Rental Films of 1967", Variety, 3 January 1968 p 25. Please note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.
- Zavattini's 18 Most Notable Films. Films101.
- Zavattini and his collaboration with de Sica. Encyclopaedia Britannica
- After the Fox: Overview. Allmovie.
- Crowther, Bosley (1966-12-24). After the Fox (1966) - Screen: 'After the Fox': First Neil Simon Film Has Local Premiere. The New York Times, December 24, 1966. Retrieved from http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9F05E5D8103CE53BBC4C51DFB467838D679EDE.
- Rediff (2010-12-22). It's official: Tees Maar Khan is a remake. Rediff.com, 22 December 2010. Retrieved from http://www.rediff.com/movies/report/tees-maar-khan-is-an-official-remake/20101222.htm.
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