The Last Remake of Beau Geste (1977) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for some rude humor and language
Running Time: 85 min.
Cast: Marty Feldman, Michael York, Peter Ustinov, Ann-Margret, James Earl Jones, Trevor Howard, Henry Gibson, Ed McMahon (cameo)
Director: Marty Feldman
Screenplay: Marty Feldman, Chris Allen
Review published May 18, 2006
Marty Feldman, perhaps most famous as the co-star of a couple of features by Mel Brooks (Silent Movie and Young Frankenstein) by this point in his career, writes, directs, and stars in a very Mel Brooks-like feature film of his own in The Last Remake of Beau Geste, a spoof of the classic novel, “Beau Geste”, by Percival Christopher Wren. It’s a bit of an obscure adaptation to make, not having been done in film form for nearly 40 years, most notable in the 1939 version featuring Gary Cooper. If nothing else, the title is true to its word, as there hasn’t been another “Beau Geste” feature made since its release in 1977.The films starts off with a trip to the orphanage by a well-to-do nobleman named Geste, who wants to carry the family line through the adoption of a suitable heir. He finds it in the perfectly admirable youngster named Beau (York, The Island of Dr. Moreau), but to adopt him, he must also accept the care of Beau’s “identical” twin, Digby (Feldman). As the years go by, Beau develops into the brave and virtuous man his father always knew he’d be, while Digby is predictably deficient. When the priceless family heirloom, a precious gem known as Blue Water, is stolen, their fates are sealed, as Beau enlists in the Foreign Legion, while Digby is jailed for the crime. Digby gets sprung from prison by other crooks in the hope that he’ll lead them to the gem, following him as he joins his brother in the Legion, hoping they’ll disclose the gem’s whereabouts.Like Mel Brooks, Feldman employs a mix of sight gags and slapstick as the bulk of the humor, with a manic screwball approach that manages to give the film a needed energy, although it falls short of Mel Brooks in quality with a lack of classic scenes or truly inspired performances. As with many films that throw gag after gag at you, the results wildly vary, and in this film there’s probably only one gag that will make you laugh for every five thrown at you – not exactly a winning percentage. It’s quaint fun when you’re in the mood, but far from essential viewing.
©2006 Vince Leo