Mouse on the Moon, The (1963)

Mouse on the Moon, The (1963)

“Peace, prosperity — and plumbing!”

Synopsis:
In a sly bid to secure plumbing for their castle, the prime minister (Ron Moody) of tiny Ruritania — ruled by Grand Duchess Gloriana XIII (Margaret Rutherford) — requests and receives financial support from the United States to enter into the international space race; but when the USSR offers the nation a used rocket, and a local scientist (David Kosoff) collaborates with a would-be astronaut (Bernard Cribbins) hoping to impress his girlfriend (June Ritchie) by landing on the moon, the space race suddenly heats up in unexpected ways.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Cold War
  • Comedy
  • Margaret Rutherford Films
  • Richard Lester Films
  • Space Exploration
  • Spies

Review:
Richard Lester’s breakthrough directorial effort was this sequel to The Mouse That Roared (1959), which starred Peter Sellers in three different roles. Sellers didn’t return for this sequel, and the movie suffers from an overall sense of simply trying to bank on the original film’s concept and success; to its credit, however, the storyline — scripted by Michael Pertwee from Leonard Wibberley’s novel — effectively satirizes the (justified) paranoia felt by all players during the Cold War. Moody — best known for his role as Fagin in Oliver! (1969) — desperately wants indoor plumbing installed so he can enjoy his baths (and, of course, promote tourist trade on the side):

… but he knows that requesting direct support for this would go nowhere. Therefore, he devises a plan to flatter the U.S. into thinking they are making a key ally while knowing Ruritania can’t possibly craft an actual working rocket:

“The Americans will not give us one penny if we had the remotest chance of sending a rocket anywhere, but they are always talking about international co√∂peration in space, and this offers them the opportunity without risk.”

The U.S. understands this as well, of course. As a confident delegate (John Phillips) argues:

“Without risk, the U.S. can encourage international space research. This will hit the uncommitted nations right between the eyes. They’ll love us, and it’ll only cost one million lousy dollars.”

And so on. Naturally, nothing goes as planned — especially with Kosoff’s brilliance and Cribbins’ persistence both underestimated.

Meanwhile, the Grand Duchess (Rutherford) is simply out-of-it and confused, adding to the overall chaos of the diplomatic situation:

… and a bumbling spy (Terry-Thomas) sent to suss things out doesn’t get very far:

Unfortunately, Cribbins is an annoying protagonist, and the special effects are laughably primitive throughout — but this film does deserve some props for its timely skewering of international relations at a particular time in history.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Effectively comedic direction by Lester

Must See?
No, unless you’re curious. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

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One thought on “Mouse on the Moon, The (1963)

  1. Rewatch 1/19/21.

    Not must-see.

    A mildly amusing sequel, with director Lester counted on for his requisite slapstick. Overall, it’s quaint by today’s standards – but Moody turns in a robust performance and Kossoff is a fun, eccentric scientist.

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