The Thirteen Chairs

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The Thirteen Chairs
1986 Force Video VHS cover
Directed by Nicolas Gessner
Luciano Lucignani
Produced by Claude Giroux
Edward J. Pope
Written by Antonio Altoviti
Marc Behm
Nicolas Gessner
Based on Dvenadtsat stulyev (The Twelve Chairs) 
by Ilya Ilf and Yevgeni Petrov
Starring Sharon Tate
Vittorio Gassman
Orson Welles
Vittorio De Sica
Tim Brooke-Taylor
Music by Stelvio Cipriani
Carlo Rustichelli
Cinematography Giuseppe Ruzzolini
Edited by Giancarlo Cappelli
Distributed by AVCO Embassy Pictures
Release dates
  • 7 October 1969 (1969-10-07) (Italy)
  • 8 July 1970 (1970-07-08) (France)
Running time 94 minutes
Country Italy
Language English

The Thirteen Chairs (12 + 1 - original title and Italian release title) is a 1969 comedy film based on The Twelve Chairs, a 1928 satirical novel by the Soviet authors Ilf and Petrov. It was directed by Nicolas Gessner and Luciano Lucignani, and starred Sharon Tate (her last film before her death), Vittorio Gassman, Orson Welles, Vittorio De Sica, and Tim Brooke-Taylor.


Mario Beretti is a young Italian-American philanderer, who has migrated to New York City. He is also a Barber. He runs a Barber Shop by a construction site that boasts few customers. His life reaches a turning point when he is notified of the death of his aunt living in England, who named him her sole heir.

Mario rushes to England, and learns that his inheritance consists of thirteen antique chairs. He sells them in order to cover his transportation costs, but soon learns from his aunt's last message, that inside one of the chairs is a fortune in jewels. He tries to buy back the chairs but is unsuccessful in doing so. With the help of a lovely antiques dealer living in London named Pat, the two then set out on a bizarre quest to track down the chairs that takes them from London to Rome. Along the way, they meet a bunch of equally bizarre characters such as a driver of a furniture moving van named Albert; a prostitute named Judy; Maurice, the leader of a traveling theater company that stages a poor version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; the Italian entrepreneur Carlo Di Seta; and his vivacious daughter Stefanella.

The bizarre chase ends in Rome, where the chair containing the money finds its way into a truck, and is collected by nuns who auction it off to charity. With nothing much left to do as a result of the failure in his quest, Mario travels back to New York City by ship, as Pat sees him off and waves goodbye to him.

The film ends with Mario returning to New York City, and to his Barber Shop. His friends over at the other (and more lavish) shop join him, as do two construction workers, and his last customer Randomhouse. It is there that Mario makes a strange discovery: Shortly before his departure for Europe, he invented a way to make hair regrow miraculously. He then laughs maniacally over his discovery.


Production and release[edit]

  • Filmed from February–April 1969. [1]
  • Because the script for Tate's scenes called for several semi-nude scenes, the director arranged to film those scenes first. As filming (and her pregnancy) progressed, the director obscured Tate's stomach with large purses and scarves. This is most apparent in the scene following her ride in the furniture mover's van.
  • In response to her recent murder, Tate received top billing for this film (this film was released posthumously). In addition, several of her other films (including Valley of the Dolls) were reissued to give her top billing on the theater marquees.

Home media[edit]

The film is extremely hard to find on VHS. It was released through rental only by Force Video in 1986 under the Thirteen Chairs name, and again a year later by Continental Video, under the original 12 + 1 name. On 12 March 2008 the film was released on DVD in Italy by 01 Distribution. This version is in Italian, lacks English subtitles, and doesn't include an English audio track.


External links[edit]