"The Mikado" by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan based on the stage production by Anthony Besch. Run time approximately 122 minutes.
This 1966 film version of The Mikado
from the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company exemplifies that group's approach to its resident gods. If you're familiar with the company's classic Gilbert and Sullivan recordings from the same period, you'll recognize the style (and many of the performers). Beautifully sung, articulated with lavish care, the production is so measured it suffocates the comedy. The reverent pacing has the aura of something dictated by ancient tradition, as if we're watching Kabuki. Yet that gives it a campy charm.
Though made for the screen, this version derives closely from a stage production. It takes place before a painted backdrop, and neither the actors nor the camera moves a great deal. The cast's thick makeup has not been modified for the intimacy of film; some of it, like the bald caps on several of the men, verges on the grotesque. There is plenty of comic business, much of it drained of spontaneity. But Kenneth Sandford, as the most rigid of Pooh-Bahs, is very effective, such as when Ko-Ko remarks on "the awkwardness of your position" while Pooh-Bah raises only his lower half into a standing posture. The one real breath of comic energy, however, comes from John Reed's Ko-Ko. Diminutive and agitated, he breaks through the stodginess around him, kicking up his heels like a vaudevillian, coyly flirting with Katisha. Reed wonderfully sang the comic leads on those great '60s recordings; it's even more delightful to see him in action. --David Olivenbaum