Bedazzled (1967 film)

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Bedazzled
UK theatrical release poster by Tom Chantrell
Directed byStanley Donen
Screenplay byPeter Cook
Produced byStanley Donen
StarringPeter Cook
Dudley Moore
Eleanor Bron
Raquel Welch
CinematographyAustin Dempster
Edited byRichard Marden
Mary Kessell
Music byDudley Moore
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • 10 December 1967 (1967-12-10) (US)
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Budget$770,000[1]
Box office$1,500,000 (US/ Canada)[2][3]

Bedazzled is a 1967 British comedy DeLuxe Color film directed and produced by Stanley Donen in Panavision format. It was written by comedian Peter Cook and starred both Cook and his comedy partner Dudley Moore. It is a comic retelling of the Faust legend, set in the Swinging London of the 1960s. The Devil (Cook) offers an unhappy young man (Moore) seven wishes in return for his soul, but twists the spirit of the wishes to frustrate the man's hopes.

Plot[edit]

Stanley Moon works as a cook in a Wimpy restaurant and is infatuated with the waitress, Margaret Spencer, but lacks confidence and is too socially inhibited to approach her. In despair at his life, he attempts suicide by hanging but is interrupted by George Spiggot, a man claiming to be the Devil. In return for his soul, George offers Stanley seven wishes. When Stanley accuses George of being delusional, he offers Stanley a "trial wish". Stanley wishes for a raspberry ice lolly, and George takes him to buy one from a nearby shop. Finding it immediately melted, Stanley confirms that George is the Devil, who takes him to his office based in a pub.

Agreeing to the deal, Stanley uses his wishes to try satisfying his love for Margaret, but George twists his words to frustrate him. All of Stanley's wish scenes feature characters played by Peter Cook, George explaining that "There's a little of me in everyone." George tells Stanley that blowing a raspberry will undo the effects of a wish if he changes his mind. Between wish scenes, Stanley learns that George's heightened sense of pride caused God to expel him from Heaven, and they are now in a game: if George is first to claim 100 billion souls, he will be readmitted to Heaven. His staff of seven deadly sins, especially Lust and Envy, are helping him with minor acts of vandalism and spite to reach this goal.

  1. Stanley first wishes to be more articulate. George turns him into a talkative, pretentious intellectual with a strong Welsh accent. Margaret becomes equally pretentious and enthusiastically agrees with all of Stanley's beliefs. Stanley stresses the importance of breaking free from one's social and moral constraints. When Stanley makes his move, however, she is horrified and starts screaming "Rape!".
  2. Stanley wishes to be a multi-millionaire with Margaret as his "very physical" wife. She ignores him and his lavish gifts, including the original Mona Lisa, instead being physical with other men.
  3. Stanley wishes to be a pop singer. However, his fame is quickly usurped by a new band, Drimble Wedge and The Vegetation, whose lead singer performs the psychedelic rock song "Bedazzled" in a hypnotic, monotone voice, expressing disdain for anyone except himself. Margaret and other entranced groupies mob Drimble in excitement.
  4. Stanley comments in passing that he wishes he were "a fly on the wall" and George turns them both into literal flies (appearing as animated characters) on the wall in a morgue, where a police inspector shows Margaret various dead bodies, hoping that she will identify one as Stanley. When the inspector invites Margaret to a vice squad party, Stanley launches an attack on him, only to be felled with bug spray.
  5. Stanley wishes he and Margaret lived a quiet life in the countryside with children. However, Margaret becomes another man's wife. While deeply in love, Stanley and Margaret's attempt to consummate their affection drives both into emotional agony.
  6. Determined to frame a wish that George cannot ruin for him, Stanley wishes that he and Margaret loved one another, lived away from the city with no other men around, and would always be together. George turns him into a nun of the Order of Saint Beryl, or the Leaping Beryllians, who glorify their founder by jumping on trampolines (expanding on a sketch that previously appeared in Cook and Moore's TV series Not Only... But Also). Margaret is also a nun in the order but refuses to consider consummating their love as they are both women. Stanley attempts to escape the wish by blowing a raspberry, to no effect, and he returns to London to confront George.
  7. When Stanley tries to use his seventh wish, George reveals he has already used it: his trial wish for an ice lolly.

Ultimately, George spares Stanley eternal damnation because he has exceeded his quota of 100 billion souls and can afford to be generous. George ascends to Heaven, where God's disembodied voice rejects him again; Saint Peter explains that when he gave Stanley back his soul, George did the right thing with the wrong motive. Thinking he can nullify this by reclaiming Stanley's soul, George tries and fails to stop Stanley from burning his contract. Stanley returns to his old job and life, wiser and more clear-sighted.

Back at the restaurant, Stanley finally asks Margaret to dinner, and although she says she's already doing something, she suggests meeting another night. Stanley smiles, happy that he has found the courage to talk to her. George tries to entice Stanley again, but Stanley tells him he would rather start a relationship with Margaret his own way. Frustrated, George leaves and threatens revenge on God by unleashing all the tawdry and shallow technological curses of the modern age while God triumphantly laughs.

Cast[edit]

Soundtrack[edit]

Moore wrote the film's soundtrack, which was performed by the Dudley Moore Trio.[4] The title track, Moore's best known song, was performed within the movie by the fictional psychedelic rock band Drimble Wedge and the Vegetation, featuring Cook's character as the vocalist. The piece has since been covered widely, including performances by Tony Hatch and Nick Cave. Moore recorded several instrumental versions.[5]

Novelisation[edit]

In 1968 Sphere Books published a novelisation of the Cook and Moore screenplay written by Michael J. Bird.[6]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

According to Fox records the film required $2,100,000 in rentals to break even and grossed $2,825,000, resulting in a loss for the studio.[7]

Critical[edit]

The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote: "'Script by Peter Cook, based on an idea by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.' Well, it wasn't much of an idea in the first place and distinctly shop-soiled at that, but even the Faust legend still has more life in it than this tired farrago. The story is used simply as a series of pegs on which to hang sketches by Dud, Pete and Eleanor Bron, all of whom appear in virtually every scene. The wit is strictly fourth-form: "Don't you know suicide is a criminal offence? You could be hanged for it," says Spiggott when he finds Stanley rope in hand, after his unsuccessful attempt on his own life. The dialogue also has an embarrassing preoccupation with the Deity and keeps making pussyfooted little dabs at blasphemy like a naughty choirboy putting out his tongue at the vicar. The feebleness of the script would matter less if the performances were on a higher level, but the principals appear to have been given their heads and there is no sign of any control by director Stanley Donen The result, inevitably, is self-indulgent, amateurish and dull, and the one genuinely hilarious moment – three nuns on a trampoline – is repeated from an old television show. Perhaps the kindest thing is to put this one down to experience and hope that next tim ambition will not run so far ahead of ability."[8]

The Radio Times Guide to Films gave the film 3/5 stars, writing: "From the days when London was swinging and Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were a partnership made in comedy heaven, this Faustian fantasy has Dud as a cook lusting after waitress Eleanor Bron and being granted seven wishes by Pete, as a drawlingly engaging Devil hungry for Dud's soul. A briefly clad, briefly glimpsed Raquel Welch is one of the Deadly Sins, while Barry Humphries turns in a hilarious performance as Envy. Director Stanley Donen settles for quirky comedy instead of razor-sharp satire."[9]

Film aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 74% approval rating based on 38 reviews, with a weighted average of 7.6/10.[10]

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times called it a "pretentiously metaphorical picture" which becomes "awfully precious and monotonous and eventually ... fags out in sheer bad taste."[11] Crowther does, however, compliment Donen for his "colorful and graphic" mise-en-scène.[11]

Roger Ebert compared the film's humour to that of Bob and Ray. He enthusiastically called Bedazzled's satire "barbed and contemporary ... dry and understated," and overall, a "magnificently photographed, intelligent, very funny film".[12]

The unattributed and undated review in the Time Out Film Guide 2009 describes the film as a "hit and miss affair" which is "good fun sometimes", but suffers from a "threadbare" plot.[13]

The Virgin Film Guide says "Cook and Moore brilliantly shift from character to character with just a change of voice (not unlike Peter Sellers), and the movie never flags".[14]

Leslie Halliwell wrote: "A camped-up version of Faust which resolves itself into a series of threadbare sketches for the stars. All rather desperate apart from the leaping nuns."[15]

Remake[edit]

In 2000, 20th Century Fox released an American remake by the same name, with Brendan Fraser as Elliot Richards (counterpart to Moore's role) and Elizabeth Hurley as the Devil.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Solomon (1989), p. 255.
  2. ^ Solomon (1989), p. 231.
  3. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1968". Variety. 8 January 1969. p. 15. Note that this figure is a rental accruing to distributors.
  4. ^ "Bedazzled [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] - Dudley Moore, The Dudley Moore Trio". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  5. ^ Lewis, John (17 April 2015). "Dudley Moore – from film scores to funk". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  6. ^ Wilmut, Roger (2003). "Appendix: Chronology of Peter Cook's work". In Cook, Lin (ed.). Something Like Fire: Peter Cook Remembered. Arrow Books. p. 253. ISBN 0-09-946035-1. Novelization by Michael J. Bird of the film script by PC and Dudley Moore. Published 1968 by Sphere Books.
  7. ^ Silverman, Stephen M (1988). The Fox that got away: the last days of the Zanuck dynasty at Twentieth Century-Fox. L. Stuart. p. 327]. ISBN 9780818404856.
  8. ^ "Bedazzled". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 35 (408): 2. 1 January 1968 – via ProQuest.
  9. ^ Radio Times Guide to Films (18th ed.). London: Immediate Media Company. 2017. p. 79. ISBN 9780992936440.
  10. ^ "Bedazzled (1967)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 27 September 2022.
  11. ^ a b Crowther, Bosley (11 December 1967). "The Screen: Son of Seven Deadly Sins". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (30 January 1968). "Bedazzled". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 19 January 2022.
  13. ^ Pym, John, ed. (2008). Time Out Film Guide 2009. London, UK: Time Out/Ebury. p. 82.
  14. ^ The Seventh Virgin Film Guide. London, UK: Virgin Books. 1998. p. 52.
  15. ^ Halliwell, Leslie (1989). Halliwell's Film Guide (7th ed.). London: Paladin. p. 85. ISBN 0586088946.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]