Bedazzled (1967)

“You see, a soul’s rather like your appendix — totally expendable.”

Bedazzled Poster

Synopsis:
A nebbishy short-order cook (Dudley Moore) enlists the help of the Devil (Peter Cook) in attracting the attention of a pretty waitress (Eleanor Bron) he has a crush on.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “although [it’s] dated, Dudley Moore and Peter Cook’s irreverent Faust tale in mod clothing was much funnier than other British imports of its day”. He notes that it “combined the absurdity and breezy style of Richard Lester; the mixture of ridiculousness and sophistication of early Peter Sellers/Alec Guinness/Ian Carmichael/Alistair Sim films; the verbal outrageousness and slapstick of the later Peter Sellers; [and] the lowbrow comedy of the Carry On Series,” while also drawing upon Moore and Cook’s Beyond the Fringe revue act. He points out that while “Cook and Moore don’t do much visual comedy… much of the verbal repartee is brilliant”, and he praises “how adeptly their voices and mannerisms change as they change characters and move from class to class, in the various segments that comprise the film”. He argues that while the “vignettes aren’t particularly clever, [they] all have funny moments”, and points out that the “film dares make God, who no longer pays attention to human prayers and whose petty feud with Satan causes misery among mortals, into the villain of the piece”.

I’m essentially in agreement with Peary’s review — though I disagree with his assertion that its “delight today is to catch a nostalgic glimpse of [the] once-wonderful comedy team”. Indeed, most modern viewers will never have heard of Cook-and-Moore (unless they’ve seen the duo in The Wrong Box), and will primarily be familiar with Moore from his later (solo) work, in 10 (1979) and the Arthur films. Therefore, the film must stand on its own as a comedy — and to that end, I believe it still “works”. While it may not be uproariously funny, the very premise itself — that “Cook’s Satan is more of a prankster than Evil personified” — is clever enough to keep one consistently engaged; I found myself especially eager for the “inter-vignette” moments, to see where and how Cook would next be wreaking gentle havoc on the Earth (by, for instance, “ripping out the last page of Agatha Christie mysteries, scratching record albums, making grocery bags tear open, setting wasps loose on picnickers, [or] calling up women and revealing to them their husbands’ infidelities”, as Peary writes in his Cult Movies 2 review). It’s all good fun, and certainly worth a one-time look by film fanatics, especially given its (onetime?) cult status.

Note: Raquel Welch’s appearance here — as Lust personified — is brief but memorable.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Peter Cook as George Spiggott/the Devil
    Bedazzled Cook
  • Eleanor Bron as Margaret
    Bedazzled Bron2
    Bedazzled Bron1
  • A clever, fast-paced screenplay
    Bedazzled Screenplay

Must See?
Yes, as a cult favorite.

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One Response to “Bedazzled (1967)”

  1. A once-must…not so much for the film (which has minor cult appeal), but for Eleanor Bron’s memorable performance.

    Coming out as it did in the freewheeling ’60s, ‘Bedazzled’ had the advantage of being a sly, droll departure from the many brassy films being released. Unfortunately, that was then. It’s not that the film has aged badly, necessarily – but it now comes off as merely quaint, even if Cook’s turn as the Devil holds some interest. (He does have style, but it’s mostly a little on the one-note side.)

    Donen reveals that – in keeping with the classic musical collaborations that have made him famous – he’s not that bad a director; he did, however, have a problem picking good scripts to work on. In that sense, ‘Bedazzled’ holds up slightly better than outright embarrassments like ‘The Grass Is Greener’, ‘Two for the Road’, etc.

    The film does have two clever bits which stand out. Midway, Cook (as a pop idol) sings the title theme – an anti-love song in which Cook hilariously does nothing other than fend off his adoring female back-up singers with statements of distaste (“Leave me alone”, “You fill me with inertia”, “Don’t you ever leave off?”, etc.). It’s brilliant – but it’s two minutes. ‘Bedazzled’ also has an inspired penultimate sequence in which Moore finally thinks he outwits Cook by making a well-thought-out, detailed wish…which, alas, leaves out one major detail.

    The real saving grace – and the reason to watch – is Bron (mainly because she is an actress who has extensive credits in tv and on stage but not in film). Whereas Bron – like the entire cast – is completely wasted in Donen’s dismal ‘Two for the Road’, she is here given an opportunity to show off her considerable comic range and she’s a charming asset this time out.

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