Bedazzled (1967 Britain)

Groovy art for the Japanese poster for Bedazzled.Bedazzled just gets better as the years go by, especially after the fiasco of the Liz Hurley remake. It embodies all of the anarchic playfulness, the growing contempt for any authority (in this case, even God), and the tremendous rush of optimism manifest by pop culture and bright, colourful fashion of the surreal 1960s. The film is strangely sad and creepy too.

Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore were at the height of their clownish powers, with Dudley playing the hapless nobody, Stanley Moon, and Peter a droll and world-weary devil. Stanley unwittingly invokes his help in resolving a romantic dilemma. The devil responds with seven wishes in exchange for his soul; but being the devil, he inevitably reneges on each one. And so the fun begins. It would be asking much of a film so steeped in the culture of the time not to have dated after 48 years, and there are odd times when its fraying hem becomes visible.

However, the problems of desire, disappointment, temptation and corruption are themselves timeless (as indeed are burst shopping bags and pigeon crap) so we can still empathize with, and laugh out loud at the plight of our would-be hero. Some of the scenarios into which Dudley finds himself plunged by his whimsical tempter are at times hilarious and wretched. He can only escape each of them by blowing a raspberry, and moving on to the next. Sight gags abound and there are many memorable but throwaway one-liners.

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One suspects that the characters of Dud and Peter actually depict their true life relationship, with an overbearing Cooke constantly using Moore as the butt of his capricious humours. This is a slice of pure 1960’s, as authentic as Ronnie Biggs, The Italian Job, miniskirts and picket-lines. It also contains two of Britain’s best comedians of their time, with some quite amazing cameos. Not least of which is Raquel Welsh as ‘Lust’, in a role so brazen one might say she was born to play to it. It is wry, sly, witty and also unexpectedly poignant. Colours on the DVD remain as vibrant as Mary Quant stockings.

Peter Cook was the best British comedian of his generation, and he’s absolutely perfect in this film. As the devil, he gets so many great and quotable lines (my favorite being “You realize that suicide’s a criminal offense. In less enlightened times they’d have hung you for it.”) Mr Cook retells Faust, but does so with an abiding suspicion of wishes, romance, and the arbitrariness of power. When Peter Cook plays Mephistopheles, he does it with not only an urbanity that would make Goethe or Marlowe proud, but with an absurdity that contemporary viewers are likely to see as a precursor to Monty Python.

And Dudley Moore’s musical score hits the target every time, the same theme jazzed up, slowed down, at times dreamy then becoming quite eerie. Its a perfect accompaniment to a script bursting with invention. Transcendental meditation was all the rage back then but Peter Cook did not need the Marharishi, he had his own mantra: “Julie Andrews!”  Ah, the magic words. This is the best comedy movie of the twentieth century. And now I have to finish this before I am late for tea at Mrs Whisby’s.

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Comments

  1. Fantastic review! This film is comedy GOLD! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Exactly! Thank you, dear. 🙂

    Like

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