Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Movies Is Good: BEDAZZLED (1967)

by JB
I am here with a new weekly column that’s… a little difrent.

Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic and my obesity (morbid) have forced me to “take stock” in a way that makes me uncomfortable, about as uncomfortable as having to climb flights of stairs. “Lose some weight!” I hear some anonymous wag shout.

Fuck you.

Every week as I sit down to pontificate for this column business, I find that the elusive “version in my head” is always superior to what eventually lands on the page. So, in the year to come, I’m going to give you the version in my head. No rough draft. No final draft. No proofreading. No copy-editing. No rewrites. No typing. I’m going to give you the raw feed in my head. My new columns will be filled with typos and misspellings. No middle-man required. It’s going to be a blast.

I have now been writing on this site for the better part of ten years. My lovely wife has generously copy-edited over 400 columns. Whew. I think it’s time to give her a little vacation. For thirty-four years, I was obsessed with correctness because my day job was teaching high-school English and Film Studies in Northern Minnesota. I think it’s time I took a break too. Don’t like columns riddled with errors? Then don’t read them. I don’t care if this column will sometimes be a little confusing. I’m just glad to be alive.

Movies is good.

I’m going to dictate most of these columns using the app Dragon Dictation that magically turns guttural choking and screaming sounds into words on the page. (In every X-rated film that I have ever seen, “dictation” has a far different meaning. When “the boss” asks his “secretary” to come into his office for “a little dictation,” that poor girl should run for the hills.) Some of my more “literate” readers may find themselves obsessively correcting my prose as they read.

Don’t correct me. It sickens me.

My inspiration for this change was FILM CRIT HULK, who ten years ago or more, wrote lengthy, mind-blowing columns that were not only ALL IN CAPS, but also sounded like Dr. Bruce Banner’s alter-ego and contained innumerable spelling and grammar errors. His epic rant about the Twilight series is still one of the most exhaustive take-downs of bullshittery posing as art that I have ever read…

I remember when Roger Ebert (another generously sized man, he used to complain at men’s clothing shops with sizes that only went up to “L” that all they stocked were children’s sizes. He used to ask the clerks where they were hiding the adult-sized clothes.) had the first of his medical calamities, his reviews took a turn and he started loving absolutely every film he saw. After the hospital hell he had been through, he was just glad to be in a movie theater. His reviews became a less accurate barometer of whether YOU would like the movie in question, but they were full of life… and the love of life.

Am I comparing myself to FILM CRIT HULK and Roger Ebert? No, I am not.

Facebook is evil and Instagram and the Twitter machine are nonsense. The only good thing about the Twitter machine is that it has allowed me to witness every single person I know during the pandemic and attendant quarantine go crazy in real time. This Fourth of July marked my independence from social media. I deleted my Facebook account a few years ago; I’m also deleting my Instagram account. I’m keeping my Twitter account, but only so that I may participate in F This Movie Fest every March. If it’s not that ONE DAY in March, I won’t be looking at it. It’s been fun, but I am going to take the time I waste on tweets and ‘grams (6 hours and 5 minutes a day, according to an app on my cellphone I don’t remember ever wanting or downloading) and I’m going to spend it watching movies and reading books about movies.

Movies is good.

I’m currently recommending the book Disney’s Land by Richard Snow; it’s fascinating. I’m finally going to bite the bullet and subscribe to the Washington Post at its insane introductory digital rate. I’m going to get my news from professional journalists instead of a gaggle of screaming strangers. People who get all of their news from Facebook and the Twitter machine scare the shit out of me. If, gentle reader, you fear this means that we will never speak again, 1) use the comment section below or 2) e-mail me at pudatsa@gmail.com.
My first memories of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are of seeing them host Saturday Night Live in 1976. They performed two funny sketches from their Broadway show, Good Evening: in the first, a one-legged man auditions for the role of Tarzan in a movie (Best line: “Obviously sir, you have a 100% advantage over a man auditioning with no legs.”) and in the second, an odd character named Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling is interviewed about his new restaurant, The Frog and Peach. HINT: the restaurant has only two items on its menu. I was 14 years old, and I thought these two English guys were hilarious. Their comedy was very different than the American comedy I was used to hearing and seeing.

I soon learned that Cook and Moore were half of Beyond the Fringe, the successful English comedy group that had sprung from the same university revue system that later gave the world Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Goodies. Years later I would purchase a cassette tape titled Derek and Clive Live! that contained profanity-laden improvisations that Cook and Moore would perform and record while inebriated. On my favorite track, Clive remembers the worst job he ever had: pulling lobsters out of Jayne Mansfield’s asshole.

Bedazzled was their first film. Peter Cook wrote the script, based on Faust, and Dudley Moore, a piano wunderkind as well as a gifted comedian, wrote all the music. Stanley Donen directed. The film is a great example of something that is fully committed to being what it is; in this case, odd, unique, twisted, pointed, and very very funny. Cook and Moore’s greatest successes had been in sketch comedy, so organizing the script around a series of wishes that Satan (Here named George Spiggot and played by Peter Cook) grants the lovelorn Stanley Moon (Dudley Moore) lets them play to their strengths. Each wish is a self-contained sketch. Eleanor Bron (Ahme from the Beatles film Help!, she also began her performing career with Cambridge Footlights; in fact, she was the first female member of that group.) appears as Margaret Spencer, the object of Moon’s affections. Stanley ricochets from being a pretentious Welsh intellectual, to a multi-millionaire, to a rock star, to a literal fly on the wall, to a country squire engaged in a guilt-ridden affair with his best friend’s wife, to, in the film’s funniest sequence, a nun, cloistered in an abbey and observing a vow of silence with an order called the Leaping Beryllians; the nuns emulate their founder (She was “pulled up to heaven” one day by God.) by jumping on trampolines. It’s that kind of film.
I love the sequence, clearly inspired by A Hard Day’s Night, where Stanley wishes to be a big pop star and the film suddenly becomes a high-contrast black and white television show. After wowing the crowd of teenyboppers with a frenetic ballad titled “Love Me,” Stanley is replaced by a new singer, Dremble Wedge (played by Cook) who quickly steals Stanley’s rapt audience with his monotone rendition of the film’s title song. Cook murmers his approbations in a luscious musical bed of a female chorus cooing the word “bedazzled.”

Ooooh, I'm bedazzled

I don't care
So you said
I don't want you
I don't need you
I don't love you
Leave me alone
I'm self-contained
Just go away

I'm bedazzled
I'm bedazzled
I'm bedazzled

I'm fickle
I'm cold
I'm shallow
You fill me with inertia

Don't get excited
Save your breath
Cool it
I'm not interested
It's too much effort
Don't you ever leave off?

I'm bedazzled
I'm bedazzled
I'm bedazzled

I'm callous
How dull
You bore me
I'm not available
The Twilight Time (RIP, Twilight Time) Blu-ray is outstanding. It is clear and sharp and the sound is fantastic. I remember watching this film on commercial television in the seventies and eighties and besides substantial cuts for time and content, the prints always looked like shit. Thank you, Twilight Time. I am sure the ethereal spirits of Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and Stanley Donen thank you too.

Maybe it’s my utter indifference to modern comedies, which seem to focus on adults acting like children, adults acting like assholes, and adults acting like asshole children. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are so sure of themselves here, so sure of their material and their performances, that it’s really up to the audience to “get it” and follow along.

So check out 1967’s Bedazzled. You will be introduced to the strange and wonderful world of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore; Frobisher and Gleason Ice Lollies; Lillian Lust, the babe with the bust; and Fruny’s Green Eyewash.

That’s about it.


  1. Wait, TT doesn't exist anymore. Man, i gotta get back into the game

  2. I watched Bedazzled through the Fox Movie Channel a couple of years ago. The pop singer section was my favorite part, but the banter between Cook and Moore is funny throughout. It is smart in a way that was rare then and, as you stated, J.B., even rarer in comedy today. It great how Moore's character never quite gets the results that he desires from his wishes.

    If I was forced to choose between Bedazzled and The Wrong Box, I would probably go for latter. I have not, though, seen The Wrong Box in a couple of decades.

  3. Thanks for this...I'm flashing back to 90s blogging when we were just happy to have a good to scream into...