Thursday, October 4, 2012

"The Wrong Box" (1966) Peter Sellers, Peter Cook

In this film farce, from a Robert Lewis Stevenson novel, directed by Bryan Forbes, Peter Cook plays a totally unscrupulous nephew who is trying to lay his hands on an enormous inheritance from his aging pedantic uncle (Ralph Richardson).

To succeed, he must convince the bank managing the estate that his Uncle Joseph, whom he thinks died in a railway accident, in fact accidently died the day AFTER the uncle's brother passed away.

(Neither uncle is actually dead but we won't go into that.)

In this scene he goes to a equally unscrupulous East End physician and feline enthusiast (Dr. Pratt, played by Peter Sellers) to get a blank death certificate he can postdate to carry out his plan. This is the only time I know that Sellers and Cook worked together in a film and their two scenes in the movie are arguably its highlights.


  1. Another excellent choice of film Doug. I saw this movie when it first appeared at the Palace Picture House in Erdington, Birmingham as a child and loved it.It is one of the most memorable British 'sitcom' films of the day, another one from about the same time was Father Came Too with James Roberstson Justice which I also remember as a very amusing film I saw in my early teens. A bit later The Magic Christian with Peter Sellers, Ringo Starr and a cameo role for Spike Milligan. Somehow these films captured the spirit of England in the late 60s. They were reassuring and comforting pieces of entertainment which meant that despite nasty things like the Cuba Crisis happening abroad, everything in the garden remained rosy in good old Blighty... London remains 'swinging' and the British film industry remains bouyant.
    Like the cocoa and slippers warm familiarity of BBC radio on an inclement Winter's night, with its avuncular announcers whose 'dark brown' self blessing annunciations embody the very notion of "fair play" and righteousness.
    These fims are the other side of the same coin, on the one hand the perpetual Summer of Rose Cottage with open top sports cars that were conjured up out of the gloom that enveloped The Palace picture house; on the other hand, costume pieces like the Wrong Box which both celebrated English Literature (ironically by the adaptation of the writings of a Scot) and the Industrial Revolution, trains and the birth of mass transportation and modernity.
    Feel good films like these aren't made here anymore Doug, the gloom leaked out when the Palace was knocked down and now we have a much darker, but rather more honest view of Britishness I think. Thanks for the memory of a film that made an impact upon me when i was growing up, it made me laugh and transported me in time and place to a mythical England where even death is a lighthearted matter.

    1. Cocoa and warm slippers seem just the right metaphors for this type of entertainment. It was my pleasure to remind you and others of this film, AA. I've always liked movies like this one and "The Ladykillers" where nefarious deeds are given the proper send-up and somehow all must be right with the world if the machinations of the criminal and mad hatters among the English upper-crust seems to end in a wash of mirth. A movie that somehow mocks but still upholds romantic love for the young (Michael Caine and the impossibly pretty Nanette Newman) and renders greed and cruelty ineffectual in the face of batty John Mills and the hilarious Ralph Richardson can only be looked back on with warmth in my view.
      My apologies for responding rather late to your comment. I overlooked it somehow, but it is appreciated.

    2. "The Magic Christian" is quite a fun film, as well, a film that shows the limits of greed albeit from a modern angle. In case you didn't know, that one is based a novel by the out-there American writer from Texas, Terry Southern, the fellow who co-wrote the screenplay for the Stanley Kubrick masterpieces "Lolita" (1962) and "Dr Strangelove" (1963).