The Mouse That Roared (film)

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The Mouse That Roared
The Mouse That Roared British Poster.jpg
Original British quad format film poster
Directed by Jack Arnold
Produced by Walter Shenson
Written by Leonard Wibberley
Screenplay by Roger MacDougall
Stanley Mann
Based on The Mouse That Roared
Starring Peter Sellers
Jean Seberg
William Hartnell
Music by Edwin Astley
Cinematography John Wilcox
Edited by Raymond Poulton
Highroad Productions
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • 17 July 1959 (1959-07-17) (UK)
Running time 83 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $2,000,000 (US & Canada)[1]

The Mouse That Roared is a 1959 British satirical Eastman Color comedy film based on the 1955 novel The Mouse That Roared by Leonard Wibberley. It stars Peter Sellers in three roles: Duchess Gloriana XII; Count Rupert Mountjoy, the Prime Minister; and Tully Bascomb, the military leader. It also co-stars Jean Seberg. The film was directed by Jack Arnold, and the screenplay was written by Roger MacDougall and Stanley Mann.


The minuscule European duchy of Grand Fenwick is bankrupted when an American company comes up with a cheaper imitation of Fenwick's sole export, its fabled Pinot Grand Fenwick wine. Crafty prime minister Count Mountjoy (Peter Sellers) comes up with a plan: Grand Fenwick will declare war on the United States, then surrender, taking advantage of American largesse toward its defeated enemies to rebuild the nation's economy. Grand Duchess Gloriana (also Sellers) is hesitant, but agrees to the plan. Mild-mannered game warden Tully Bascome (also Sellers) is charged as Field Marshal to lead the Fenwick troops, aided by sergeant Will Buckley (William Hartnell).

The contingent of 20 soldiers in medieval chain mail books passage across the Atlantic on a small merchant ship, arriving in New York harbor during an air-raid drill that leaves the city deserted and undefended. They chance upon a Civil Defense truck, and are mistaken for invading Martians, prompting an investigation by blustering but ineffectual General Snippet (MacDonald Parke). Puncturing the tires of the general's jeep with their bows and arrows, the Fenwick troops take him and four NYPD officers hostage. Still looking for a place to surrender, Tully and Will stumble across Dr. Alfred Kokintz (David Kossoff), whose invention of the Q Bomb – capable of destroying an entire continent – has prompted the defense drills. He has built a football-sized prototype of the unstable bomb, which Tully takes possession of. With Kokintz and his attractive daughter Helen (Jean Seberg) as additional hostages, Tully declares victory and returns with them to Grand Fenwick.

The duchess indulges Tully's victory, and the prime minister resigns in disgust at Tully's blunder, leaving him as acting prime minister. When the incident is discovered, the U.S. government is thwarted from retaking the weapon and hostages by force, fearing the dishonor of attacking such a small and defenseless nation. Instead they send the U.S. Secretary of Defense (Austin Willis) to discuss terms of surrender and get back the bomb. Meanwhile, Grand Fenwick receives competing offers of defensive aid from each of the world's powers, in exchange for the weapon.

Tully becomes smitten with Helen, who initially despises him for taking them, but falls for his simple charm. Then Snippet and Mountjoy conspire to steal the bomb and return it (and Helen) to America, but Tully gives chase and retrieves it. The Secretary of Defense and Tully agree to terms: the knock-off wine will be taken off the market, Grand Fenwick will receive monetary aid from the US, Helen and her father will remain in Grand Fenwick, and so will the bomb: held by "the little countries of the world" as a weapon of last resort if the superpowers refuse to disarm.

Checking the bomb for damage, Tully, Helen, and Dr. Kokintz find it was "a dud" all along, and leave it in the dungeon, conspiring to keep its impotence secret. However, after they leave, a mouse emerges from it, and it appears to rearm, sitting ready to explode if disturbed.



Liberties were taken in the film adaptation to display Peter Sellers' versatile comedic talents. The lead character of the book is the Duchess Gloriana XII, an attractive young royal in the manner of the young Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Grace of Monaco. In the film version, however, Peter Sellers plays the role as a parody of an elderly Queen Victoria (who thinks the President of the United States is Calvin Coolidge), whilst his Mountjoy is a parody of Benjamin Disraeli. The Marseilles and New York harbour sequences were filmed in Southampton, England. The presence of the RMS Queen Elizabeth ocean liner there was a lucky coincidence. In addition, in the novel an encounter with the New York Police Department leads to bloodshed that complicates peace negotiations. This does not appear in the movie. In addition, both Tully and Helen are with Dr. Kokintz when he discovers the bomb is a dud and it is Tully who suggests that they keep that fact a secret. However, a mouse emerges from the bomb's casing and it apparently resumes its normal function as an active weapon. At this, the film displays the title, "The End... We hope."

As there is no actual mouse in the film, title designer Maurice Binder added one in a classic opening joke with the Columbia Pictures logo and a return of the mouse in the last scene.

One scene has diplomats playing a board game called Diplomacy, although the game more resembles Monopoly rather than the game Diplomacy.


Television pilot[edit]

In 1964 Jack Arnold obtained exclusive television rights for The Mouse That Roared from Leonard Wibberley.[2] He produced and directed[3] a colour television pilot with ABC Television and Screen Gems called The Mouse That Roared, starring Sid Caesar as the Duchess, Mountjoy and Tully. It co-starred Joyce Jameson, Sigrid Valdis and Richard Deacon. However, the pilot was not picked up for production.[4] It was filmed by Richard H. Kline.[5]


Richard Lester directed a sequel, The Mouse on the Moon in 1963.


  1. ^ "Rental Potentials of 1960", Variety, 4 January 1961 p 47. Please note figures are rentals as opposed to total gross.
  2. ^ Reemes, Dana M. Directed by Jack Arnold McFarland, 1988. p.140
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^

External links[edit]