The Last Remake of Beau Geste
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|The Last Remake of Beau Geste|
|Directed by||Marty Feldman|
|Produced by||William S. Gilmore|
|Screenplay by||Chris Allen|
|Story by||Sam Bobrick|
|Based on||Beau Geste by P.C. Wren|
James Earl Jones
|Music by||John Morris|
|Edited by||Jim Clark|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
The Last Remake of Beau Geste is a 1977 American historical comedy film. It stars and was also directed and co-written by Marty Feldman. It is a satire loosely based on the 1924 novel Beau Geste, a frequently-filmed story of brothers and their adventures in the French Foreign Legion. The humor is based heavily upon wordplay and absurdity. Feldman plays Digby Geste, the awkward and clumsy "identical twin" brother of Michael York's Beau, the dignified, aristocratic swashbuckler.
It was the feature film directorial debut of Feldman. He subsequently went on to direct In God We Tru$t (1980).
Spoofing the classic Beau Geste and a number of other desert motion pictures, the film's plotline revolves around the heroic Beau Geste and his brother Digby's misadventures in the French Foreign Legion out in the Sahara, and the disappearance of the family sapphire, sought after by their money-hungry stepmother.
- Marty Feldman as Digby Geste
- Michael York as Beau Geste
- Ann-Margret as Flavia Geste
- Peter Ustinov as the brutal Sergeant Markov
- Sinéad Cusack as sister Isabel Geste
- Trevor Howard as Sir Hector
- Spike Milligan as Crumble the Butler
- Burt Kwouk as Father Shapiro
- James Earl Jones as Arab Chief
- Avery Schreiber as Arab Chieftain / Used Camel Salesman
- Terry-Thomas as Warden
- Henry Gibson as General Pecheur
- Roy Kinnear as Corporal Boldini
- Irene Handl as Miss Wormwood
- Hugh Griffith as Judge
- Stephen Lewis as Henshaw
- Ed McMahon as Arab Horseman
- Michael McConkey as young Digby
Feldman had appeared in two film spoofs made by actor-writer-directors, Young Frankenstein and The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother. In 1976, Feldman signed with Universal Pictures for a five picture deal to direct, write and act in films, beginning with The Last Remake of Beau Geste.
"We see Marty as a triple threat artist," said a Universal spokesman. "Marty is like a throwback to the old silent comics who could do it all. It doesn't matter that he's British because physical gags travel.That's why he has a major future ahead of him and why we've made a major, major investment in Marty at Universal."
"Everybody has a five picture deal," said Feldman. "Until the first picture bombs. Then they have a no picture deal."
"There's the whole idea of dying nobly, a bull---- idea. The film will poke fun at the way people think about war, dying for flags instead of people, heroism. There is a serious element in all comedy... the two overlap and merge. I see life as absurd and there's dignity in the absurd. Keaton had it. Chaplin had it. Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce. What we're saying about life is laugh."
"I didn't want to work with clowns but actors who can clown," he said.
Filming began 30 August 1976.
The film went over budget and over schedule.
After completing his cut of the film, Universal sent Feldman on a two-week "working vacation." While he was gone, Universal recut the film and had John Morris compose a new score. Feldman's friend Alan Spencer said the two cuts were markedly different - Feldman's was more surreal and Pythonesque, whereas Universal's told a more conventional story. The Universal version ended with a scene where Feldman's began, because his was told in flashback. Spencer says both versions were tested before audiences, and Feldman's version tested better, but Universal ultimately released their cut of the film.
Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote a positive review of the film, describing it as having "a whole range of jokes that are funny primarily because they are in absolutely terrible taste." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4 and called it "only a slightly above-average comedy. It starts out with a number of funny sequences, and Feldman is funny-looking for a few minutes. But I don't find him interesting enough or funny enough or likable enough to carry an entire movie." Arthur D. Murphy of Variety wrote that the film "emerges as an often hilarious, if uneven, spoof of Foreign Legion films ... An excellent cast, top to bottom, gets the most out of the stronger scenes, and carries the weaker ones." Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "There are too few jokes and rapturous inventions to sustain even the movie's brief 85 minutes, some of those that exist are strained too hard and some should have been dropped after the first draft. It gets to be a long siege at the fort." Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote, "Although there's no difference in the games they like to play, Feldman seems a shaky, bush-league terrible joker compared to a prodigal, big-league terrible joker like [Mel] Brooks ... Feldman often seems uncertain about whether a sight gag will pay off, so to reassure himself, he'll run it into the ground." Penelope Gilliatt of The New Yorker called the film "recklessly funny" and "a hilarious exercise in taste run amok." Tom Milne of The Monthly Film Bulletin declared it "a ragbag of a film which looks like nothing so much as a Monty Python extravaganza in which inspiration has run dry and the comic timing gone sadly awry."
Feldman was angry with Universal for distributing their recut of the film. Attempts have been made since his death in 1982 to have the director's cut released, but so far have been unsuccessful. According to Michael York, "Marty's version was much funnier." The film was released on DVD in the US on January 11, 2010 as part of the Universal Vault Series of DVD-on-Demand titles, sold by Amazon.com, in the UK, the film was released through Second Sight Films on January 24, 2011.
Kino Lorber released a Blu-ray special edition of "The Last Remake of Beau Geste"  featuring a commentary from Alan Spencer that verbally recreates Feldman's cut. Spencer's commentary has drawn raves with Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere extolling: "Spencer's Beau Geste is the best Bluray audio commentary I’ve listened to (and savored) since the heyday of audio commentaries between the mid ’90s and early aughts."
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- MOVIE CALL SHEET: Universal Fetes 'Digby' Feldman Lee, Grant. Los Angeles Times 5 July 1976: e10.
- FILM CLIPS: Rich Man's Rich Heroine Kilday, Gregg. Los Angeles Times 24 July 1976: b7.
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- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-01-07. Retrieved 2012-01-25.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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- Siskel, Gene (August 5, 1977). "'Geste' just not jest it should be". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 3.
- Murphy, Arthur D. (July 13, 1977). "Film Reviews: The Last Remake Of Beau Geste". Variety. 18.
- Champlin, Charles (July 15, 1977). "Less Here Than Meets the Eye". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 1.
- Arnold, Gary (July 15, 1977). "Marty Feldman 's Last Remake of Beau Geste': A Poor Jest". The New York Times. B9.
- Gilliatt, Penelope (July 25, 1977). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. 78.
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