28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2005
Format: VHS Tape
The 1960s was such a unique decade - a kind of bridge connecting the bizarrely Eisenhower 50s with the polyester Nixon 70s. Watching films from the 60s is equally amusing. I watched "I Love You Alice B. Toklas" the other night, the 1968 drama/comedy starring the late-great Peter Sellers.
No multiple roles here for Mr. Sellers, and rarely a moment of slapstick. In fact, it's a serenely subtle performance as Sellers plays an inhibited square lawyer bored with the prospect of spending the rest of his life with his fiancee - a woman who happens to be his secretary. Sellers' character is about as exciting as Darrin Stephens with a hangover. But he's jarred from his straight-laced shell by the appearance of a free-spirited hippie chick who's fond of sitar music and hash brownies.
While hippies had been on the scene for a couple of years by 1968, not too many had been seen in films. But the message, I think, is the key.
A middle-aged, disillusioned man drops out of society to discover himself. He backs out of his wedding, quits his job and lives in the backseat of his car with his young hippie chick (played by the lovely Leigh Taylor-Young). This was a fairly brave stance during an era when society was told to marry, propagate and move to the suburbs.
The keynote moment, and one of the funniest scenes I have seen in a while, happens when Peter Sellers, his fiancee and his parents accidentally sample some hash brownies (made from an old Alice B. Toklas recipe, thus the film's title). This straight-laced crew, tasting drugs for the first time, fall on the floor in fits of laughter, playfully disrobe and eventually decide to play miniature golf. That's right, miniature golf. In some way, a dash of hash has enabled them to loosen up and touch their inner child. Sellers soon discovers the free-spirit path is not for him either, leading to the film's unforgettable final scene.
Paul Mazursky wrote the screenplay to this film, and would soon evolve into one of the greatest film directors no one has ever heard of. Mazursky's resume includes such brilliant works as "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice," "An Unmarried Woman," "Moscow on the Hudson" and "Enemies: A Love Story." "I Love You Alice B. Toklas" is where it began for this uniquely gifted filmmaker, a man whose works consistently document love, life and America's freedoms. Mazursky embraces the hippie movement of the 60s, but more so, embraces spiritual freedom.
As Altamont and the deaths of Joplin, Hendrix and Morrison revealed by 1971, the hippie movement was not the answer. In some ways, Mazursky already knew this. But with a purity of heart, he essentially said we could all learn something from this important philosophical uprising. I can't help but remember a film review of "Woodstock" by Roger Ebert. He profoundly said, "This was a time when people believed they could change the world with music. Today, it is very, very different."
When watching "I Love You Alice B. Toklas," I am transported back to that very, very different time.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Along with THE PARTY and THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST, this is one of my favorite films from the psychadelic 60's... though its a bit sad: a comedy, but in retrospect, an homage to a lost revolution - - In fact, in many ways its a play on a fantasy I'm sure we've all had at one time or another... the idea of escaping from the monotony of a boring life and job and... being free - - only then, it was actually a trendy idea... still, Harold Fine (played by Peter Sellers) would have been the least likely guy to ever go ahead and do it... a 30-something year old attorney, unhappily engaged, square and stabley employed... but that was before a young hippie dippie chick came into his life, and he was able to sample her groovy brownies, expand his mind, and learn that maybe 9-5 wasn't as full of "tsures" as he thought it was.
Not to many extra features except a theatrical trailer, the movie is juicilly remastered... and the dialogue, images and music are really a trip back to the 60's. - - True, the film is best remembered for the hash brownie scene the film starts rolling way before then and keeps on getting better and better starting with the most "beautiful" and sub-union scale funeral you've ever been to... of course its hard to top and elderly Jewish couple high on hash and dancing the horah and playing minerature golf.... but that's just the begining of the madness.
Based on a great book with a great premise... an additional surprize about the movie was Peter Seller's ability to act so straight and square... then make the transformation from neurotic square to... to a hippie on the verge of a nervous breakdown. (Compare to Coburn's role in The President's Analyst.)
Don't rent this one... buy it... I get the munchies for it once every couple of years or so - - its worth the purchase... (By the way, another under-rated little morsel from this era is Goldie Hawn in Butterflies Are Free, though I think Leigh Taylor-Young's hippie dippie chick's got her beat on this one...!)
All in all, this is a hillariously cynical look at the "WE" generation, and along with THE PARTY one of my all time favorite PETER SELLERS films.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2006
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
In case you're wondering, the name, referenced in the title of the film I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! (1968) doesn't refer to an actual character in the movie, but to writer Gertrude Stein's literary secretary and lifelong partner, who published a memoir in 1954 titled `The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook' that featured, among other things, a recipe for hash brownies, which figures into the film. Co-written and co-produced by Paul Mazursky (Down and Out in Beverly Hills), and directed by Hy Averback (The Great Bank Robbery), the film features Peter Sellers (The Pink Panther, The Party, Murder by Death) and Leigh Taylor-Young (Soylent Green, The Big Bounce), in her silver screen debut. Also appearing is Joyce Van Patten (Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You), Jo Van Fleet (Cool Hand Luke), David Arkin (The Long Goodbye), Salem Ludwig (Endless Love), and Herb Edelman (The Odd Couple).
Sellers plays Harold Fine, a 35 year old, well-to-do, straight-laced, uptight, squarish type lawyer with commitment issues who soon finds himself engaged to his long time girlfriend/secretary named Joyce (Van Patten) after she basically corners him into finally setting a date for the event. Harold's obviously unsure of his impending nuptials, even more so after he meets a friend of his younger brother Herbie (Arkin) named Nancy (Taylor-Young), both of whom are free spirited, go with the flow, free loving, flower power hippie types, commonplace on the west coast in the late sixties. Following a series of comical events the day of Harold and Joyce's wedding arrives (it's a traditional Jewish ceremony, complete with dueling cantors) and Harold's uncertainty results in him bailing on Joyce (in mid ceremony no less), hooking up with Nancy, and trying to embrace the hippy lifestyle completely, growing his hair long, changing his clothes, and giving up most of his possession, except for his Lincoln Continental, which he and Nancy occupy, after sprucing it up with an interesting, psychedelic paintjob. The bohemian lifestyle seems to agree with Harold at first, as does the regular coupling with Nancy, but eventually the novelty wears off shortly after Harold and Nancy get a real pad, and it becomes a haven for every bongo beating weirdo, poetry reading ne'er-do-well, and flower picking malcontent that happens to stop by...oh, it's a groovy scene, man...
While this film is extremely dated, a sort of time capsule, I thought it was a lot of fun. As far as Sellers' non Pink Panther features, I wouldn't say this was the funniest, as of the ones I've seen I have yet to find one that made me laugh as much as The Party (1968), which, if you're a fan of Sellers, is worth checking out, if only to hear Sellers, in character, say the phrase "birdie num nums". As far as this film I really didn't find myself laughing out load on a regular basis, but there were some really humorous moments. The comedy here is low key, and features none of the slapstick found in the Pink Panther films, so if that's what you're expecting you'll probably be disappointed. One thing about Sellers, in my opinion, is he had a way of getting into a role to the point where you believed he was truly the character, and not so much an actor playing a character. As I said the comedy here is mostly low key, but generally consistent as conventional, pre-hippy Harold struggles with the distinct generational differences and nonconformist attitudes of those he would eventually try to emulate, followed by a post-hippy Harold diving headfirst into the lifestyle as it allows him freedoms he never had before, along with unfettered access to Nancy. The best parts of the film for me were the following...
Harold, after dinging up his car, taking it in for repairs and discovering the only vehicle available at the garage for a loaner is a ridiculously painted station wagon owned by the mechanic's son, who has since ran off with a girl to San Francisco. Subsequently Harold, while attending the funeral of a family friend, finds himself in the awkward position of having to haul the casket to the cemetery as the regular drivers are on strike. In doing so he gets lost and drives all over hell and high water in his psychedelic ride looking for the cemetery, with the casket sticking out of the back.
Harold, meeting up with his fiancée and his parents at his home, and accidentally serving some magic brownies to them, ones made special by Nancy, with an ingredient not specified on the box.
Harold's mother, and her subsequent reaction, after showing up at his pad, which has been overrun with dirty, mooching Bohemians.
As I said, the film is seriously dated (maybe the term `vintage' is more appropriate), but it's entertaining and worth a look if only to see Peter Sellers acting the oddball hippy type. The long hair, the funky clothes, the goofy medallions, he's got it all...as far as the other performers I thought they all did very well, complimenting Seller's performance well. Actually, while watching this, I thought of Steve Martin and his role in the film L.A. Story (1991), you know, back when he made comedies that were actually funny. The movies are certainly different, but a core element, that of an older man trying, unsuccessfully, to bridge the generational gap if only to get with a younger woman, are very similar. Anyway, if you're interested in a lighthearted, low-key comedy that's slightly absurd, amusing, and even funny at times, this one might be worth a look. If you're interested in a more straightforward, comically inclined film with Sellers, outside of his Pink Panther roles, then check out The Party (1968).
The picture, presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), looks very clean and crisp on this DVD, and the Dolby Digital mono audio, available in English and French, comes across well. The only extras included are subtitles in English, French, and Spanish, along with an original theatrical trailer for the film.