Start the Revolution Without Me (1970)

Start the Revolution Without Me (1970)

“I’m delighted to see you all stuffing yourselves while France has cramps from the tyranny of its own indigestion!”

In 1789 France, two pairs of identical twins mixed and switched at birth grow up to become apolitical peasant brothers Claude (Gene Wilder) and Charles (Donald Sutherland), and power-hungry Corsican brothers Philippe (Wilder) and Pierre (Sutherland) — and the four accidentally meet up with one another at Versailles during an attempted revolt against King Louis XVI (Hugh Griffith), his nymphomaniac wife Marie Antoinette (Billie Whitelaw), and the devious aristocrat d’Escargot (Victor Spinetti).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Class Relations
  • Comedy
  • Donald Sutherland Films
  • French Revolution
  • Gene Wilder Films
  • Historical Drama
  • Hugh Griffith Films
  • Mistaken or Hidden Identities
  • Orson Welles Films
  • Plot to Murder
  • Revolutionaries
  • Royalty and Nobility
  • Twins

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that while this “absurdist cult comedy” about an “identity mix-up” “has many funny gags and [a] bizarre performance by Wilder as the crazed, sadistic Corsican”:

…it “no longer seems original” and “halfway through… begins to drag, [deteriorating] into a silly bedroom farce in which characters keep zipping into different chambers through doors and passageways and being confused over who is who.” Adding insult to injury, this film makes “the French Revolution [come] across as the work of dumb clucks,” and the “ending is a terrible cop-out.”

I’m in agreement with Peary’s assessment of this earnest film, which tries too hard and far too often belabors each joke until it’s stale — as when King Louis sheepishly professes he thought a masked ball was a costume ball, again and again and again.

Watch for a very random appearance by Orson Welles at the beginning and the end of the film (making note of the fact that he doesn’t appear in it):

… and Ewa Aulin — star of Candy (1968) — as a busty Belgian princess.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • A few amusing sequences

Must See?
No; you can skip this one.


2 thoughts on “Start the Revolution Without Me (1970)

  1. (Rewatch 11/27/20.) A once-must, for its camp / cult status. As posted in ‘Revival House of Camp & Cult’ (ff):

    “I will go quietly. I will go quietly because it’s best for everyone. For the people. For France! As Christians, we should treat each other with human kindness! With love! I will go quietly. Not for myself, for my personal safety – but for the good of mankind, the good of my countrymen, the good of my village, my family, for France! For France!”
    “You said you’d go quietly. Burn down the farm!”

    ‘Start the Revolution Without Me’: I’ve said it before: There aren’t nearly enough films in which the protagonists are twins (let alone dual twins) and it has happened less often in comedy. ~ which makes this exercise in conscious camp a rare treat. Director Bud Yorkin’s affectionate homage to the historical fiction of Dickens and Dumas is only as good as your silliest funny bone. The more you appreciate wordplay, comic timing and traditional farce, the more you’ll like it.

    Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland had both just enjoyed breakthrough roles (in ‘The Producers’ and ‘MASH’ respectively); their matching (and mismatching as twins) is inspired. As the more-affected of the ‘twins’, Wilder gets to showcase his unique brand of passive-aggression while Sutherland gets to indulge in a persona that runs close to gay (my fave is his pronunciation of ‘Escargot’).

    Some fine British character actors are on-board: Hugh Griffith (marvelous as King Louis), Victor Spinetti, Billie Whitelaw and Rosalind Knight – who must constantly give in to sexual demands (“What are you doing in a monk’s habit? I didn’t know about ‘the monk and the choirboy’! I thought you wanted to do ‘the woodchopper and the shepherd’! How many costumes do you think I can PACK?!!”)

  2. I did see that on tv channel Turner Classic Movies. In honour of Warner Bros 100th anniversary. Not a bad comedy movie. The only part I didn’t liked was Orson Welles who kept saying 1789 several times.

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