on December 14, 2000
Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are my all-time favorite comedy team. Arising from the "Beyond the Fringe" troupe of the 1950s, they went on to create some of the wittiest comedy routines of the 1960s. Taking off brilliantly on traditional British class divisions, they resembled an Abbott and Costello for members of Mensa, with Cook's sarcastic, sneering upper-class snob scoring endless points off Moore's sweet, hapless working-class schlemiel. Unfortunately, they never found a good screen vehicle for their comic personae--except for Bedazzled, directed by Stanley Donen from Cook's screenplay. Moore plays a short-order cook on the verge of suicide because of unrequited love; up pops the Devil, played by Cook, who offers Moore seven chances at the girl of his dreams in exchange for his soul. Of course, the Devil being the Devil (and Cook being Cook), he can't resist skewing each chance just a tiny bit...The film is a screamingly funny yet cohesive string of bits as Cook spoils each of Moore's attempts at happiness. The physical humor (wait till you see the nuns on trampolines) is every bit as wonderful as the verbal barbs (wait till you hear Cook explain how Mussolini's soul eluded his grasp). For those who are sufficiently attentive, there is also much witty and pointed discussion of traditional Christian theology and ethics. Eleanor Bron (as the girl of Moore's dreams) and Raquel Welch (as the living embodiment of Lust) are delicious in more ways than one. Stanley Donen, no stranger to directing films based on tricky screenplays, does full justice to Cook's mordant, wildly imaginative vision. Cook's career floundered in the 70s after the duo split up, and Moore's solo stardom sagged after a few early successes. Now that Cook is dead, far too young, and Moore is desperately ill, we can be grateful for Bedazzled and mourn that it had no successors.
I first saw this film my first semester in college... in English 101 of all places! After reading the Goethe's "Faust," we were treated to this drop-dead, split your sides open comedy.
Dudley Moore is perfect as the bumbling, broken-hearted bafoon, Stanley Moon. Peter Cook is the evil, but somehow still loveable George Spiggot aka the Devil. Raquel Welch plays a small cameo role as "Lust," one of the seven deadly sins personified.
Moon (Moore) is lovelorn and secretly pining away for the waitress he works with at the local "Wimpy Burger" in London. When Moore realizes that the girl he desires will never notice him, he attempts to take his life and is rescued by none other than the Prince of Darkness.
Moore agrees to sign over his soul to Spiggot in return for 7 wishes. The poor sap just isn't street smart enough and constantly wishes for something he either didn't intend to wish for or worse, a wish he hadn't really thought out properly and thoroughly... exacerbating the meaning of the phrase, "be careful what you wish for... you might just get it!"
Cook does an exemplary job as the wolf in sheeps clothing. Spiggot gains Moon's confidence by being kind to him... despite his alterior motives, it is probably the first time anyone has been kind to Moon in his whole life and the Devil exploits this to the fullest measure. Lack of street-smarts gets moon in one hilarious pickle after another.
I can't say much more without ruining the plot and the hilarity, but suffice to say, you'll never hear "Julie Andrews" the same way again. I highly recommend this as a clever comedy... and one that's safe to show to teens.
on February 6, 2000
Bedazzled is a black comedy based on the Faustian legend. A restaurant cook(Dudley Moore) makes a deal with the devil (Peter Cook) in exchange for the love of a woman.Classic and unforgettable,this important film has been unavailable for some time.You'll see Dudley Moore's character as an animated fly,as well as a cigar-chomping nun who lusts for Racquel Welch- in an early role as a stripper! The devil gives Dudley wishes in exchange for his soul, but adds hilariously unexpected twists for his own warped amusement.Dudley can only escape his wishes by "blowing raspberries" and uttering the phrase "Julie Andrews! " An excellant cast, an inspired director (Stanley Donen), and a hilariously unique script make this the best film of its genre.A good time will be had by all, and an important lesson will be learned by all who see this timeless masterpiece of irreverence and the triumph of good over evil. It is a travesty that such a classic film is unavailable when so many thoughtless and gratuitious films of this type are being made and sold. This is the film to judge all other Faustian comedies by, and to date, it has no equal.
on April 7, 2007
I will dispense with the funny first. This is the funniest movie ever. Period. No doubt. There is more clever wordplay, more sly jokes, more inventive and wonderful characters than in any other movie. That is a huge plus. I love it. But it is not the reason to watch it. Cook and Moore were often brilliant together, but this is something else. Frog and Peach is dastardly clever. This is much, much more.
Bedazzled is the most wonderful theological movie ever made. How two hedonistic jerks could cook up such a masterpiece I cannot say. But they did. The big questions of faith, free will, good and evil are all addressed beautifully. And intelligently. Good is painted with a simple brush. Evil is the evil we know, not the gross caricature but the sordid and grubby piece in every one's heart, even Mrs. Wisby's. I could write at length on this, but folks think the movie is anti-God or irreverent. Organized religion doesn't look too good, but Bedazzled is as pro-God as any Left Behind film. And still wildly funny and bitingly charming.
The image is great, and the wide-screen is a treat after the boxy VHS image I've endured for years. As to the DVD extras. Well, two short pieces with Dud and Pete, hardly worth the bother, and a rambling boring monologue by Harold Ramis. For a Bedazzled fan, as I have been for nearly 40 years, this is akin to having Steve Bartman on a Cubs DVD. I think Ramis a smart man, and Groundhog Day is on my top 5 all time, but his disastrous remake of this movie took out all the spark, wit and intelligence. A shame, as it would be fun to hear something from the actors who were in on this. All of whom, except the dreadful though lovely Raquel, are wonderful.
on August 31, 2000
Yeah, I know, nobody in Hollywood has had an original idea in decades, but the news that they were putting out a new version of THIS near-perfect comedy stunned me. And with the guy from "Encino Man"! The original stars the great British team of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore back when the former was still alive, and the latter was still funny. It's basically a retelling of Faust, with short-order cook Stanley Moon (Moore) head-over-heels for a completely indifferent waitress. Stanley sells his tortured soul to The Devil (Cook) for seven chances at romantic bliss, only things never seem to be quite right. No matter how hard Stanley tries to spell out exactly how he wants his new life to be, George (that's the name Satan goes by here on Earth) manages to find a loophole in each wish. The situations that result are all priceless, and there's even a few steamy scenes with Raquel Welch as one of the Seven Deadly Sins (guess which one). The original film is a 10, and there's no more chance of the 2000 version living up to it than there is of Brendan Fraser winning an Academy Award. Like, ever.
on September 30, 2000
How wonderful that 20th Century Fox finally chose to distribute Stanley Donen's 1967 masterpiece, starring Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, and Eleanor Bron, at a reasonable price! For years, this film cost an astonishingly high $60.00, and one could only locate copies in obscure video stores... Once, I caught it on A&E at 4am... Sad, considering the value of the picture.
Hilarious moments and scenes abound in this mod-ish update of Marlowe's "Dr. Faustus", all thanks to the pairing of Cook and Moore, of "Beyond the Fringe" fame, and a wonderful performance from Bron, as their straight woman. As Leonard Maltin and Danny Peary observed, "Bedazzled" revels in sacrilege, simply because Donen and screenwriter Cook make God the villain and Cook's Satan (ie. "George Spigott") the devilishly fun hero... who spends his time provoking spite in humans by having pigeons "release their doo-dahs" on the heads of vicars and smashing up crates of fresh bananas that will be sent to market. But it's still a barrel of laughs... irreverent, fresh, and unique... and inventive, as well, with an animated sequence and musical numbers.
Great bits include: the scene in which Cook transforms Moore into a nun of the Order of Leaping Berelians (with their sacred trampolines), the appearances of the "Seven Deadly Sins" (particularly Vanity, who carries a giant mirror affixed to himself, can't see around it and ends up crashing into everything), and, in my favorite moment, Moore's transformation into a teenage pop idol on a Hullabaloo-like television show.
It's embarrassing and a little silly that Harold Ramis decided to "remake" this film, with a cast that includes Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley. Doubtless, he probably wishes he'd written and directed the original. But you can't improve on something that's already a masterpiece.. particularly if you're Ramis. Anyway... if that's what it takes to convince MGM to rerelease the original at a more reasonable price, I suppose every cloud does have a silver lining.
on April 11, 2007
I can only hope that people never confuse this hard-faceted gem with the dreadful (in fact worst ever) remake. The star of the film is the chemistry between long-time comedy partners Cooke and Moore, and the supporting star is the script, which is intelligent, thought provoking, and hilarious. There are sight gags (nuns on trampolines!), slapstick, and more wit than the whole run of Fawlty Towers. The "sacrilege" in this film is the blasphemy of a monk, the questions of a true believer, and it's clear that Authority may be infuriating, but it is not unwise, just as evil may be foolish, but it is not petty. Forget Raquel on the cover: the film is about the vanity of human wishes and the folly of the divine comedy.
on January 31, 2000
The only downside to seeing this stunningly hilarious comedy is the frustration you feel that these guys never pulled off anything like it again. This film is so brilliantly creative and funny, you hunger for more. The targets they aim at are many and they nail 'em all--pop stars, religion, the wealthy, the pompous. The scene in which Peter Cook plays a snotty, aloof pop singer whose fans grow evermore crazed as he blatantly ignores them is a timeless classic. Has anything really changed in the last thirty years? Nobody gets off easily in this film and nobody really deserves to. The film never seems preachy, however, it's too damn funny.
on October 9, 2000
This is an all-time comedy classic that should not be remade. However, the plus side of the fact that a remake has been churned out by Hollywood mediocrities is that it will draw more attention to the original and hopefully get it a release on letterboxed DVD (the original film is in widescreen 2:35 to 1 aspect ratio, so the video copy that's supposed to come out on the market is absolutely NOT RECOMMENDED).
Peter Cook wrote the 'Faustian Bargain' based screenplay and acted the lead as the Devil alongside comedy partner Dudley Moore (who also wrote the music) and Stanley Donen (Yes, he of "Singing in the Rain" fame) did a masterful job directing. Eleanor Bron (who also appeared in the Beatles' Help!) plays the unattainable dream-girl greaseburger-chef Dudley hankers after, eventually deciding to make a bargain with the Devil. Of course, every little scenario that the devil cooks up for him in exchange for his soul, not only does not give him what he wants but contains a trap, and endless hilarity ensues (the bug-on-the-wall scene and trampolining nuns scene are one-of-a-kind classics).
What makes "Bedazzled" special is the highly literate quality of Peter Cook's screenplay and also his 'Monty Pythonesque' wise-aleck presence as an actor. Cook turns this film into a deep satire that does not insult the audience's intelligence even while they're laughing their heads off. They're welcome to dig deeper if they're so inclined. In fact, this film is probably the standard by which all so-called 'Faustian Bargain' films (there have been many of them) should be judged. Cook was never able to reach this level of brilliance again but even one film of Bedazzled's quality in an artist's lifetime is a gift.
Lastly, the atmosphere of Bedazzled is completely saturated with the mid-'60s, 'swinging' London feel and vibe of the period, with Moore's semi-psychedelic, R&B influenced score constantly grooving away in the background. Bedazzled becomes a fascinating historical relic as well as a superb comedy. As '60s sex-goddess Raquel Welch (playing 'Lust') shakes her 'big shoes' in Dudley Moore's mesmerized face, we (whoever 'we' are) time-travel back to an era when the Beatles were on acid growing their hair long and Elvis still had a greaser haircut.
on June 8, 2011
Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, a hipper, slimmer, sexier version of Bud Abbott & Lou Costello, first honed their particular brand of sketch comedy in 1959 in their native Britain via the wonderful stage show Beyond The Fringe, alongside Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller. This success led to their very popular BBC TV show Not Only Peter Cook But Also Dudley Moore in 1965. So it only made sense that Cook & Moore eventually try the movies, which they did with Bedazzled in 1967.
Most comfortable as sketch comics, they very shrewdly hit upon a spoof of the Faust legend; the notion of the Devil, aka George Spiggott (Cook) granting a short-order cook and loser named Stanley Moon (Moore) seven wishes in exchange for his soul.
I say shrewdly because it meant Cook & Moore could treat the seven wishes as seven different sketches and, hey presto, there's your 90-minute feature film plot. Monty Python must have taken note because their Holy Grail had a similar episodic structure, again due to sketches being their particular comfort zone.
But, unlike Holy Grail, Bedazzled really does have a proper story with a very satisfying ending and IMHO holds up much better. Cook & Moore's style is a fascinating blend of broad belly-laughs and the sort of devastating, intellectual-but-playful wit we usually associate with Woody Allen in his prime.
I was too young to properly remember the Swinging 60s but, despite this movie's fantasy trappings, I do feel because of the intelligent dialogue I am witnessing the Real 1960s; both a colourful, sexy time, and its flipside, a neurotic, nervous, morally questionable time, replete with, as Spiggott himself growls, an excess of "television and advertising and automobiles and perversion and supersonic bangs". Cook & Moore can't help getting social and even theological comment into their jokes but the miracle is that it never seems forced.
Peter Cook's acting is occasionally criticized as being wooden and unbelievable, but that's not fair; his character here is supposed to appear inscrutable and maddening to our Cuddly Dudley and at this he succeeds splendidly.
Amongst the highlights: in one of the wishes Moore becomes an over-the-top pop star, plaintively wailing "Love Me!" to an adoring, screaming female crowd, whilst Cook, as a similarly clad singer, sneers to the same crowd, "You Fill Me With Inertia"...and gets an even bigger adoring reaction!
And who can forget the scene of the one and only Raquel Welch (as Lust!) bringing Dudley Moore breakfast in bed. A wonderful send-up of Male Fantasies in general, Welch is both uncannily, adorably, devastatingly funny AND red, smokin' hot, in an all-too-brief scene sublimely combining comedy and sex in a way that beats even Russ Meyer (and I say that as an ardent RM fan by the way).
It's a scene that, regrettably, makes one forget the remarkable Eleanor Bron as Margaret Spencer, the object of Dudley/Stanley's affection. Perhaps best known as Princess Ahme from the Beatles' film Help!, Bron is likable and game throughout, even when caught in the middle of the odd dated, very un-PC verbal reference to rape. Bron's airheaded waitress character, confronted with the apparent likelihood of Stanley's death, bleats, "'E was really somethin', with them cheeseburgers. `E was a real artist." Wonderful.
Sadly, this is Cook & Moore's only movie masterpiece, although they managed further TV series of Not Only...But Also (1968-1970), another award-winning stage show, Behind The Fridge (aka Good Evening, 1971-1975) and even a "scandalous" series of semi-improvised, proto-punk comedy records as their foul-mouthed alter egos Derek & Clive (1976-1979). They split circa 1979.
The already financially-secure Peter Cook (who even during their team days was well-established as a solo comedy act of devastating imagination and improvisatory skill) went on to work only when he bloody well felt like it, whilst the ever-earnest Dudley Moore pursued a Hollywood career with a success that staggered everyone (the blockbusters 10 and Arthur), none more so than Moore himself.
In comedy circles, Peter Cook is today heralded, in Britain, mainly, as an untouchable genius, the untoppable Funniest Man in the World. That's probably true: for such a beautiful man he had a certain lunacy right down to his bones: he moved funny, had quietly mad, piercing eyes, a droll, increasingly croaky sneer of a voice, a rapier wit, a stunningly original and sharp, vivid imagination... Yes, he had it all.
Dudley Moore, by contrast, is in danger of being remembered only as "Arthur, that cute little piano player with the crazy laugh."
This is very, very wrong. It's a kind of comedy snobbery dumped on Dudley only because, despite being more than capable of improvising comedy on his own (Look at how in Arthur, when, for no apparent reason, he pats a stuffed moose head, saying something like, "Life is cruel. I don't have to tell YOU that."), he for whatever reason chose to be a Leading Man Film Actor in Romantic Comedies (and a very fine, warm, likable one at that... Will that EVER be stylish again??) rather than a Self-Sufficient Comic/Personality like, say, Peter Cook.
If you must know, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore were really the last word in co-depedence, at least where great comedy is concerned. But they were so good. To paraphrase Miss Margaret Spencer in Bedazzled, "They were really somethin', with them sketches. They were real artists."
But that's another story. Indeed the extras on Bedazzled include a latter-day interview with the two (albeit conducted separately!) that touches on this complicated relationship.
Having said that, I must tell you the most provocative statement on the extras comes from Harold Ramis, the director of the Bedazzled remake.
It's a line that haunts me. Harold Ramis says that, to him, the original Bedazzled is not so much about God and the Devil but about how distracted we all get by Desire.
Harold Ramis says, "You can never get enough of what you really don't need."
Wow. Man! Seriously.
Well...might I just rephrase that:
You CAN get enough Peter Cook & Dudley Moore. It's called Bedazzled, and yes, you really need it.
You won't even have to sell your soul.