The Wrong Box
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|The Wrong Box|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Bryan Forbes|
|Produced by||Bryan Forbes
|Written by||Larry Gelbart
|Based on||The Wrong Box
by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne
|Music by||John Barry|
|Edited by||Alan Osbiston|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|27 May 1966|
The Wrong Box (1966) is a British comedy film made by Salamander Film Productions and distributed by Columbia Pictures. It was produced and directed by Bryan Forbes from a screenplay by Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove, based on the 1889 novel The Wrong Box by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne.
The cast includes a number of Britain's leading actors and comic actors of the time, including John Mills, Ralph Richardson, Michael Caine, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Peter Sellers, Irene Handl and Tony Hancock. Included in the cast are other actors who later became more well-known, including John Le Mesurier, John Junkin, Leonard Rossiter, Nicholas Parsons, Jeremy Lloyd, Graham Stark, Thorley Walters, Norman Rossington, David Lodge, Juliet Mills and Norman Bird. Cicely Courtneidge also appears, as Salvation Army Major Martha and "The Temperance Seven" also appear (as themselves).
In Victorian London, elderly brothers Masterman (Mills) and Joseph Finsbury (Richardson) who live next to each other and are the surviving members of a tontine, an investment scheme set up 63 years before, in which the last member stands to receive a fortune. Masterman is attended by his unpromising medical student grandson, Michael (Caine), while his greedy cousins Morris (Cook) and John (Moore), who live in Bournemouth, do their best to keep their annoying uncle Joseph alive there. Masterman, who hasn't talked to his despised brother in many years, summons Joseph to his "deathbed," intending to kill him so that Michael can get the money.
On the train trip to London, Joseph escapes from his minders, entering a compartment and boring the sole occupant with a litany of trivial facts (something he does with everyone he encounters). His traveling companion later turns out to be the "Bournemouth Strangler." Joseph leaves to smoke a cigarette, leaving his coat behind, which the strangler dons. The train then collides with another one coming in the other direction. In the confusion, Morris and John find the strangler's mutilated body and mistakenly believe it is that of their uncle.
Morris decides to try to hide the body enough for Masterman to pass away, then claim Joseph died of a heart attack upon hearing the news. Morris and John plot to ship the body to their London home. John, left behind to attend to this task, sends the body in a barrel. However, it is delivered to Masterman's house by mistake. The "wrong" box of the title is concurrently shipped to Masterman's house, a crate containing a statue that has the house number partially obscured. Joseph makes his way to London on his own and visits his brother; Masterman attempts to kill his brother a number of times, with Joseph oblivious to the attempts; they separate after quarreling. Meanwhile, Michael meets Joseph's ward, Julia Finsbury (Nanette Newman), and they fall in love.
The containers are mistakenly delivered to the wrong houses. Morris, arriving at Joseph's house in John's absence, sees a delivery wagon just leaving and assumes that his uncle's body has just been delivered. Things become complicated when Michael discovers the contents of the barrel and, after learning of the "altercation" between Masterman and Joseph from family butler Peacock (Wilfrid Lawson), assumes that his grandfather has killed his brother. Michael hides the body in a piano when Julia brings Masterman some broth. That night Michael hires unscrupulous "undertakers" to remove the strangler from the piano and dump it into the Thames, but Masterman falls down the staircase and they assume his is the body. Morris observes the activity and gleefully assumes Masterman has died.
Further misunderstandings and antics ensue the next day as the cousins claim that the tontine has been won, Masterman is returned home after being fished out of the river, Morris orders a coffin to remove the mutilated body he thinks is in Joseph's basement, the coffin is delivered to the wrong house, Michael sells the piano not knowing the strangler's body is still in it, the police are involved when the body in the piano is discovered, Masterman is revealed to be quite alive in the misdelivered coffin, a second coffin ordered by Michael arrives, the cousins make off with the tontine money in the second hearse, and the chase that ensues encounters a real funeral procession in which Joseph is participating.
- John Mills as Masterman Finsbury
- Ralph Richardson as Joseph Finsbury
- Michael Caine as Michael Finsbury
- Peter Cook as Morris Finsbury
- Dudley Moore as John Finsbury
- Nanette Newman as Julia Finsbury
- Peter Sellers as Dr. Pratt
- Tony Hancock as Detective
- Wilfrid Lawson as Peacock
- Thorley Walters as Lawyer Patience
- Cicely Courtneidge as Major Martha
- Diane Clare as Mercy
- Gerald Sim as First Undertaker
- Irene Handl as Mrs. Hackett
- John Le Mesurier as Dr. Slattery
Pinewood Studios, Iver, Buckinghamshire, was the main production base for the studio sets and many exteriors, with the Victorian London crescent exteriors being shot on Bath's historic Royal Crescent, complete with TV aerials on the roofs. The funeral coach and horse chase was filmed in St James Square, Bath, and on Englefield Green, Surrey, and surrounding lanes.