The Statue (1971 film)

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The Statue
Original movie poster for the film The Statue.jpg
Original movie poster
Directed by Rodney Amateau
Produced by Anis Nohra
Josef Shaftel
Written by Denis Norden
Alec Coppel
Based on Chip, Chip, Chip
by Alec Coppel
Starring David Niven
Virna Lisi
Robert Vaughn
Ann Bell
Music by Riz Ortolani
Cinematography Piero Portalupi
Edited by Ernest Hosler
Josef Shaftel Productions
Distributed by Cinerama Releasing
Release date
  • 1 October 1971 (1971-10-01)
Running time
84 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office 40,890 admissions (France)
205,231 admissions (Spain)[1]

The Statue is a 1971 British comedy film starring David Niven, Robert Vaughn, and Virna Lisi and directed by Rodney Amateau.[2][3] Monty Python's John Cleese and Graham Chapman appear in early roles as the Niven character's psychiatrist and a newsreader respectively.[4] Niven plays a nobel-prize winning professor who suspects his wife, played by Lisi, of infidelity when she makes and unveils an 18-foot statue of him with private parts recognisably not his own.[5] The film is based on the play called Chip, Chip, Chip by Alec Coppel.[6]


Professor Alex Bolt has developed a new universal language, Unispeak, which has made him internationally famous. His wife Rhonda has made a sculpture of her husband at the behest of the US State Department, commissioned by his friend, US Ambassador to England, Ray, for $50,000, in order to promote Unispeak. It is intended that the sculpture be unveiled in London's Grosvener Square.

The sculpture is an 18-foot nude one of Alex. He is upset and tries to get it suppressed, especially when he notes every aspect of the statue resembles him except for the size of its penis. Rhonda points out that she has only seen Alex eighteen days in the past three years. Alex becomes convinced Rhonda has had an affair and based the size of the genitalia on the model, whom he dubs Charlie.

Alex seeks advice from his friend Harry, an advertising man trained as a psychiatrist. He tries to track down the model of the statue in order to get it to suppressed. He interrogates a household employee, Joachim, who thinks Alex is hitting on him and beats him up. Alex then goes to a Turkish bathhouse to interview possible Charlies, but is thrown out.

Harry suggests that Alex forget about it, which he tries to do and he apologies to Rhonda. However the thought of Charlie causes him to be impotent. This leads to a fight with Rhonda, and Alex resumes his search for Charlie.

Ray then sees the statue and becomes concerned about it having a bad effect on his reputation. He arranges for the statue to be stolen, which Rhonda blames on Alex.

Alex eventually discovers the model was the statue of David by Michelangelo. Rhonda ends up making a new statue based on Ray.




  • "Charlie" by the Statuettes - lyrics by Norman Newwell, music by Riz Ortolani
  • "Skin" Sequence - choreography by Gia Landi, lyrics by Audrey Nohra, music by Luis Enriquez Bacalov


Dyan Cannon and Robert Culp were originally announced as supporting David Niven.[7] "It's a fun role, in a fun picture," said Virna Lisi.[8]


Filming began in Rome on 1 May 1970 at Cinecitta Studios.[9][10]


Critical response[edit]

Critical and audience reception of the film was poor, though Niven was praised for his efforts to sustain the film as the main character.[11][12] The Los Angeles Times called it a "silly, strained farce."[13]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote in his review: "The Statue is about Alex Bolt (David Niven), a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Rhonda Bolt (Virna Lisi), his wife, and an 18-foot statue of Bolt, commissioned for the United States Embassy in London and sculptured by the laureate's wife. The point of the movie is not that Miss Lisi is a dreadful artist, although, from the evidence on display in the film, I doubt that she could obtain a commission to decorate a post office in the Soviet provinces. The point of the film is that the statue is nude. Although the physique looks like some failing art student's copy of Michelangelo's David, we are told that it bears a perfect likeness to thin old David Niven, except for the genitals. This, however, we have to take on blind faith since The Statue is, after all, a movie that depends on prudery. Like a stereotype spinster, it averts its eyes every time the camera approaches the statue's midsection. ... The Statue may have the distinction of being the first adolescent comedy about penis envy. Paradoxically, it is rated R, which will keep out most of the 12-year-olds who might be expected to find it good for a smirk. It opened yesterday at the Astor and Loew's Orpheum Theaters.[14]

Roger Ebert in his review wrote: "A helpful stranger used to call every month or so with helpful suggestions for this brilliant screenplay he thought we ought to write. He wanted us to go into a partnership; he'd think up the ideas, see, and all I had to do was write them down. He would draw from his vast experience in wholesaling, he said, which was an area people were fascinated by. I think he was calling from a bar. Anyway, I haven't heard from him for a year or so, and I was beginning to get concerned. What had happened to all those brilliant ideas, and who was getting the opportunity to write them out for him? The answer, I think is that the guy finally unloaded the plot of The Statue and retired. In addition to being one of the worst movies ever perpetrated, The Statue is based on one of the two or three worst ideas ever conceived for a movie. How it managed to get past the office mimeograph machine, much less get read, financed, produced, acted in and even released, is a mystery maybe only that helpful stranger, with his boundless optimism for bad plots, could explain. Consider. David Niven is the inventor of a marvelous new international language that will help us all communicate, tear down national boundaries, bring peace to the world, etc. He wins the Nobel Prize, but he's only home 18 days in three years. His wife, Virna Lisi, undisputed queen of bad movies, is a sculptress who does a statue of Niven, about 20 feet high. Now here's the gag. Are you ready? Because he's not home enough, she's hired a model for the private parts. Niven (a) doesn't want himself standing nude and 20 feet tall in the middle of London, but (b) especially not with someone else's privates. Nelson's column is going far enough. Trafalgar or no Trafalgar. So he sets out to discover the anonymous model and wreak vengeance, or something, upon him. And then ... I walked out. I suppose a funny movie might have been made of this material. No, on second thought, I suppose not. Certainly not with David Niven looking so uncomfortable you wish, for his sake, he were in another movie, or even unemployed. Anywhere except under those pigeons."[15]


The Statue was released in theatres in Ireland on 1 October 1971. The film was released on DVD by Code Red Studios on 18 May 2010.[16]


  1. ^ European box office figures for Virna Lisa at Box Office Story
  2. ^ "The Statue". Turner Classic Movies. Atlanta: Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner). Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  3. ^ "The Statue". British Film Institute. United Kingdom. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  4. ^ McCall, Douglas (2013). Monty Python: A Chronology, 1969-2012 (2nd ed.). New York City: McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0786478118. 
  5. ^ Craddock 2005, p. 814.
  6. ^ Gifford 2001, p. 804.
  7. ^ Browning, Norma Lee (20 March 1970). "Henry Fonda's new series". Chicago Tribune. Chicago: tronc, Inc. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  8. ^ Virna Lisi: Italian Actress, Housewife and Evolutionized Sexpot ABA, MARIKA. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 19 July 1970: r18.
  9. ^ Niven Statue Is Unveiled Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 26 May 1970: f14.
  10. ^ Martin 1970, p. 83.
  11. ^ R.R. Bowker 1983, p. 7.
  12. ^ Fowler 1996, p. 38.
  13. ^ MOVIE REVIEW: 'Statue' Features Virna Lisi, Niven Thomas, Kevin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 29 Jan 1971: g10.
  14. ^ Canby, Vincent (28 January 1971). "David Niven and 'The Statue':Amateau Directs Gags About Nobel Laureate 'Curse of the Vampires' Also Begins Run". The New York Times. New York City: The New York Times Company. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (24 March 1971). "The Statue". Chicago: Ebert Digit LLC. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  16. ^ "The Statue". Code Red Studios. Gretna, Louisiana: Code Red Studios LLC. 18 May 2010. ASIN B00383XYRC. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 


External links[edit]