Twelve Chairs, The (1970)

“Pride is a luxury that neither you nor I can afford at this time in our lives.”

Synopsis:
A former nobleman (Ron Moody) in the Soviet Union learns from his dying mother-in-law that she hid her family jewels in a chair, part of a set of twelve that have since been sold. With the assistance of a blackmailing con-man (Frank Langella), he embarks on a quest to locate the missing jewels, encountering an unexpected rival in the form of a priest (Dom DeLuise) who heard about the hidden treasure during a confession.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “uneven but fairly enjoyable Mel Brooks comedy” — based on a satirical Russian novel from 1928, and essentially a “period remake of [Fred Allen’s] It’s in the Bag” — suffers from overly “deliberate” pacing, making the story “start to drag so much that one wishes at times [Brooks] would punch it up with silly humor.” Indeed, diehard Brooks fans excited to learn about this early entry in his oeuvre — made just after his cult 1968 hit The Producers — will likely be disappointed to find that the humor here is, for the most part, decidedly restrained. DeLuise’s greedy ex-priest is clearly meant to serve as a comedically buffoonish foil, but he’s irritating rather than humorous; meanwhile, Moody and an impossibly young, sexy Langella make for an interesting duo (I disagree with Peary’s assertion that they’re “just too unsympathetic” for us to care about their “developing relationship”) — but their performances seem better suited for a serious drama than a comedy. This one is ultimately too uneven to recommend as must-see, but certainly worth a one-time look.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Frank Langella as Ostap Bender
  • Frank Moody as Ippolit

Must See?
No, though it will likely be of cult interest to diehard Brooks fans.

Links:

One Response to “Twelve Chairs, The (1970)”

  1. Not a must.

    After many years, I’ve now seen this tepid film twice; I wasn’t crazy about it the first time and a second viewing only confirmed how forgettable it is.

    It is nicely produced and photographed. It has a pleasant opening theme song (“Hope For The Best/Expect The Worst’). There is one enjoyable performance by Andreas Voutsinas (so memorable as Carmen Ghia in ‘The Producers’) in a small role as a theatrical manager.

    It also has a thin premise which quickly makes the film predictable and one-note, so there is nothing in terms of a build. Not only is pacing often off but things in general become strained.

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