Vice Versa – Movie News |


Peter Ustinov (director)

Live Network (studio)

PG (certificate)

102 minutes (length)

September 05, 2022 (published)

7 p.m.

This expansive 1948 period comedy was written and directed by 26-year-old Peter Ustinov and is based on the novel of the same name by F. Anstey (published as early as 1882). It still holds up remarkably well and gives us two bravura performances from an extremely young Anthony Newley and the good old Powell/Pressburger favorite – the gruff voice of Roger Livesey.

The premise of the story seems relatively straightforward (though not quite straightforward to pull off), namely that of a schoolboy who becomes his own father…and vice versa. A “new” idea indeed! To call this movie quirky and bonkers (including the opening titles) is an understatement to say the least and that’s precisely what makes the movie so fun to watch – there are actually no dull moments. Indeed, this Two Cities production could give some of Ealing’s great comedies a run for their money.

After his son Dick’s wedding, old Paul Bultitude (Roger Livesey) – a wealthy former stockbroker, addresses the camera and invites us into his living room where he continues to tell us how things went via a flashback sequence. The deceased mother of her newly married son had a little brother by the name of Marmaduke Paradine (David Hutcheson)… who was doing no good in India (like countless other white chappies in the days of the Raj). There the dastardly borner had the cheek to steal one of the eyes from a monstrous native effigy although apparently (upon closer examination) he observed that the ‘eye’ had been made in Sheffield. We have a number of topical and subtle jokes spread (which we would expect from Mr. Ustinov), most of which are all too succinct. One can’t help but wonder if J. Milton-Hayes got the idea for his monologue “The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God” from this novel.

Upon his return to Old Blighty, Paradine insists that his brother-in-law Paul accept the eye as a gift, although Paradine has his own reasons for this: rumor has it that “the eye – called ‘Geruda’s stone’ – grants its owner a wish and is said to bring bad luck. Later, we see young Dick Bultitude (Anthony Newley) complaining to his pompous father Paul that he has no desire to return to Dr. Grimstone’s boarding school (despite his courting of Grimstone’s daughter, Dulcie – played by a young Petula Clark). His honesty causes his father to scold him for his impertinence and uselessness. Frustrated by his father’s response and playfully waving the Indian eye (not knowing what it actually is), the quarrel continues until Paul – his patience running out – exclaims that he would like to be in his son’s place and could be a young boy again! Hey presto, the miraculous transformation takes place as Dick becomes Paul and vice versa. The consequences that are about to follow are really quite hilarious. It’s hard to decide who has the harder task (Newley or Livesey), as 16-year-old Newley (playing a 14-year-old student) suddenly has to slip into the role of a mature adult. As for Livesey, playing young teenage Dick, the challenge must have been something, too.

Dick addresses Headmaster Grimstone (James Robertson Justice) as an equal and instead despises his comrades. This causes him endless trouble. Meanwhile, back at the family home, young Dick – trapped in his father’s body – is having a whale of a time. This includes a huge misunderstanding with his father’s mistress – accomplice Fanny Verlaine (Kay Walsh) who’s no use anyway and is in cahoots with that pig Marmaduke Paradine we talked about earlier. She has another suitor in the thin and overzealous Lord Gosport (Bill Shine) which culminates in a duel in ice-laden Hyde Park, once again with hilarious consequences, the result being a big trial and a seven-day fine. year. shilling and sixpence – a little dig here on the absurdities of British law. You can have a bit of fun (if you’re a certain age or a connoisseur of vintage films) spotting the long list of British character actors on board, including Ustinov’s comedic partner Peter Jones – here 27 and so far too old to play a schoolboy. The likeable Roger Livesey is always good to watch and Anthony Newley (better known as the Artful Dodger in ‘Oliver Twist’ and for ‘The Strange World of Gurney Slade’) is more than a match for Livesey, although he had very little training before this role. Lots of fun and a great pick-me-up in these depressing times!

VICE VERSA comes fully restored on HD Blu-ray with the following special features: Stills Gallery, ‘The Strange World of Gurney Slade’ Episode 1 (with Anthony Newley, ‘Saturday Spectacular: an Anthony Newley Variety Show from 1960, plus Limited edition pamphlet.


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