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UK 1962
Directed by
John Guillermin
104 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Waltz Of The Toreadors

Waltz Of The Toreadors provides ample evidence that the key to a good film is in the writing. At its outset it looks like it could be a typically British broad screen farce of the period, full of bluster and nudge-nudge sauciness, but Jean Anouilh's stage play as adapted by Wolf Mankowitz and transposed to the South of England from its original French setting offers considerably more: a wry and slight mordant view of love and marriage.

Peter Sellers, who made a good number of those typical British comedies, here excels as General Leo Fitzjohn, an wealthy upper-class general on the eve of retirement who is trapped in an unhappy marriage to a possessive wife (Margaret Leighton), has two ugly duckling daughters (one of whom is Prunella Scales, who would eventually play Basil Fawlty’s wife) and an appetite for the ladies. For seventeen years he has been carrying on a platonic affair with a French woman (Dany Robin), who turns up at his stately home determined that he should do the right thing by her and leave his wife.

Whilst Sellers has plenty of fun with the Colonel Blimp-like bluster of his character he also manages to convey the emotional conflict of a man torn between his desire for freedom and his sense of duty, the big confrontation between Gen. Leo and his wife being surprisingly scathing for such ostensibly light fare. The fact that Guillermin cuts this with a romp between the General's would-be mistress and his adjutant (John Fraser) best indicates the rather incongruous juxtaposition of farce and tragedy that tends to leave the viewer less than completely satisfied. The resolution, whilst fine for a play, is a too little abrupt for cinema but there is still enough in the film to make it worthwhile.




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