The Last Remake of Beau Geste
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The Last Remake of Beau Geste is a 1977 American historical comedy film. It starred and was also directed and co-written by Marty Feldman. It is a satire loosely based on the novel Beau Geste, a frequently-filmed story of brothers and their adventures in the French Foreign Legion. The humor is based heavily upon wordplay and absurdity. Feldman plays Digby Geste, the awkward and clumsy "identical twin" brother of Michael York's Beau, the dignified, aristocratic swashbuckler.
|The Last Remake of Beau Geste|
Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
|Directed by||Marty Feldman|
|Produced by||William S. Gilmore|
|Screenplay by||Chris Allen|
|Story by||Sam Bobrick|
|Based on||Beau Geste by P.C. Wren|
James Earl Jones
|Music by||John Morris|
|Edited by||Jim Clark|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
It was the feature film directorial debut of Feldman. He subsequently went on to direct In God We Tru$t (1980).
Spoofing the classic Beau Geste and a number of other desert motion pictures, the film's plotline revolves around the heroic Beau Geste and his brother Digby's misadventures in the French Foreign legion out in the Sahara, and the disappearance of the family sapphire, sought after by their money-hungry stepmother.
- Marty Feldman as Digby Geste
- Michael York as Beau Geste
- Ann-Margret as Flavia Geste
- Peter Ustinov as the brutal Sergeant Markov
- Sinéad Cusack as sister Isabel Geste
- Trevor Howard as Sir Hector
- Spike Milligan as Crumble the Butler
- Burt Kwouk as Father Shapiro
- James Earl Jones as Arab Chief
- Avery Schreiber as Arab Chieftain / Used Camel Salesman
- Terry-Thomas as Warden
- Henry Gibson as General Pecheur
- Roy Kinnear as Corporal Boldini
- Ed McMahon as Arab Horseman
- Michael McConkey as young Digby
Feldman had appeared in two film spoofs made by actor-writer-directors, Young Frankenstein and The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother. In 1976 Universal signed him to a five picture deal to act, write and direct in films, starting with The Last Remake of Beau Geste.
"We see Marty as a triple threat artist," said a Universal spokesman. "Marty is like a throwback to the old silent comics who could do it all. It doesn't matter that he's British because physical gags travel.That's why he has a major future ahead of him and why we've made a major, major investment in Marty at Universal."
"Everybody has a five picture deal," said Feldman. "Until the first picture bombs. Then they have a no picture deal."
"There's the whole idea of dying nobly, a bull---- idea. The film will poke fun at the way people think about war, dying for flags instead of people, heroism. There is a serious element in all comedy... the two overlap and merge. I see life as absurd and there's dignity in the absurd. Keaton had it. Chaplin had it. Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce. What we're saying about life is laugh."
"I didn't want to work with clowns but actors who can clown," he said.
Filming began 30 August 1976.
Filming was difficult, with the shoot plagued by rain in Spain. Feldman fell ill with chicken pox during the making of the film and production was shut down while he went away to recover.
The film went over budget and over schedule.
After completing his cut, Universal sent him on a two-week "working vacation." While he was gone, Universal arranged for the film to be recut and made the composer do a new score. Feldman's friend Alan Spencer said the two cuts were markedly different - Feldman's was more surreal and Monty Python-like, whereas the Universal version told a more linear story. The Universal version ended with a scene where the Feldman one started, because his was told in flashback. Spencer says both versions were tested, and Feldman's version tested better, but the Universal one was released.
Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote a positive review of the film, describing it as having "a whole range of jokes that are funny primarily because they are in absolutely terrible taste." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4 and called it "only a slightly above-average comedy. It starts out with a number of funny sequences, and Feldman is funny-looking for a few minutes. But I don't find him interesting enough or funny enough or likable enough to carry an entire movie." Arthur D. Murphy of Variety wrote that the film "emerges as an often hilarious, if uneven, spoof of Foreign Legion films ... An excellent cast, top to bottom, gets the most out of the stronger scenes, and carries the weaker ones." Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "There are too few jokes and rapturous inventions to sustain even the movie's brief 85 minutes, some of those that exist are strained too hard and some should have been dropped after the first draft. It gets to be a long siege at the fort." Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote, "Although there's no difference in the games they like to play, Feldman seems a shaky, bush-league terrible joker compared to a prodigal, big-league terrible joker like [Mel] Brooks ... Feldman often seems uncertain about whether a sight gag will pay off, so to reassure himself, he'll run it into the ground." Penelope Gilliatt of The New Yorker called the film "recklessly funny" and "a hilarious exercise in taste run amok." Tom Milne of The Monthly Film Bulletin declared it "a ragbag of a film which looks like nothing so much as a Monty Python extravaganza in which inspiration has run dry and the comic timing gone sadly awry."
The film was described as a "surprise hit" and he was able to direct a second film.
Marty Feldman was disappointed with the print distributed in theaters because the studio edited its own version. Attempts have been made to have the director's cut restored, but so far these have proved fruitless. According to Michael York, "Marty's version was much funnier." The film was released in America on DVD on January 11, 2010 as part of the Universal Vault Series of DVD-on-Demand titles, sold on Amazon.com, in the UK, the film was released through Second Sight Films on January 24, 2011.
- Barnes, Mike (2015-01-12). "Bernard Williams, Producer on 'A Clockwork Orange' and 'Ragtime,' Dies at 72". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-01-24.
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- MOVIE CALL SHEET: Universal Fetes 'Digby' Feldman Lee, Grant. Los Angeles Times 5 July 1976: e10.
- FILM CLIPS: Rich Man's Rich Heroine Kilday, Gregg. Los Angeles Times 24 July 1976: b7.
- Spain's rain: no jest Norman, Barry. The Guardian 17 Nov 1976: 8.
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- Champlin, Charles (July 15, 1977). "Less Here Than Meets the Eye". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 1.
- Arnold, Gary (July 15, 1977). "Marty Feldman 's Last Remake of Beau Geste': A Poor Jest". The New York Times. B9.
- Gilliatt, Penelope (July 25, 1977). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. 78.
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