Salient. Newspaper of Victoria University of Wellington Students Association. Vol 41 No. 3. March 13 1978
Film Feldman Alone — The Last Remake of Beau Geste
Film Feldman Alone
The Last Remake of Beau Geste
Marty Feldman owes much of his success in the movies to Mel Brooks. In fact, only as part of Brooks' madcap repertory company has he remained a memorable comic talent outside Britain. With clues to the success of a comedy film from his experience in Young Frankenstein and Silent Movie, Feldman has attempted to do his own thing as director, writer and star of The Last Remake of Beau Geste.
The result is a very unoriginal spoof, almost Brooksian in its manic glee and its saturation in movie references. Although the comic tenor of the film is more steady-tempered than that of Brooks, the contribution of an excellent cast makes Feldman's creation one of the better quality comedies of late.
Trevor Howard is superb as the bibulous Sir Hector Geste whose determination to continue the family name leads him to adopt identical twins whom he names Beau and Digby (Michael York and Marty Feldman). Years later, Sir Hector remarries and "overcomes himself" on his wedding night. In order to guard the legendary Blue Water Sapphire of the Gestes from their new wicked stepmother (Ann-Margret), the twins end up as Legionnaires and hapless victims of the dadistic Sargeant Markov (Peter Ustinov).
Markov is typical of the many unlikely characters at the Legion fortress. These include Booker T Doestoevski, a dark skinned White Russian in a Klu Klux Klan robe and hood; a Chinese Father Shapiro wearing a nun's habit; a Black Santa Claus, a one-eared Dutch painter; a fellow called Jack. T. Ripper carrying a blood stained valise; a battered matador and a man in harlequin costume. Markov himself has a different artificial leg for every occasion, one with a small hidden cannon, for battle, another on wheels for dancing (besides going to bed with a one legged teddy bear).
Meanwhile, Lady Flavia Geste is in hot pursuit, jumping in and out of bed with odd people in the process ("its been a business doing pleasure with you"). The family eventually reunite at the Regimental Ball, when Beau agrees to flee with his stepmother and the sapphire. He leaves his burnt clothes so that by all appearances he has perished with gallantry in the final battle with the Arabs.
Beau, who always wanted to be buried at sea, gets his last request when his ashes are flushed down a cistern, used in the absence of any other water in the desert.
Feldman, as director, competently spoofs the genre of Legion heroics. At one extreme, the Legionnaires are singing the theme song ". . . perhaps for a change we will murder all the wives and rape all the men ..." and later in a mirage area, Feldman as Digby exchanges one-liners with the original Beau Geste, Gary Cooper.
The film covers the best spectrum of cinema humour. Ridiculous characters are put in real situations and real characters in ridiculous situations. Feldman himself plays at the latter by placing himself in absurd physical situations in the style of the great Buster Keaton. To escape from prison, the pathetic Digby dangles from a rain gutter several stories above the prison compound, sails through a window onto a roof and hurtles down a zigzag laundry chute. Such bruises and bumps are not necessary for Feldman to make us laugh. His sense of tragedy, drama and the ridiculous ([unclear: especia himself]) are self-evident in this film, [unclear: as] his future comic career whether he goes it alone or as a Mel Brooks protege.
Kevin John Young.