9 January 2012 | intelearts
476th Review: Boulting Bros, Peter Sellers, Early 60s Class Comedy - Heaven indeed!
Heavens Above! has so much going for it - a wonderful and very gentle performance by Sellers, a who's who of British comedy from the late 1950s, and the Boulting Brothers at the helm. This is a film that stands the test of time and remains both fun and interesting and a fascinating take on Anglicanism. In Britain, children of a certain class went to privileged school with the eldest son being shipped off to serve as an officer, or join the Foreign Office for the larger good of the Empire, and the second son would go to the City or the Church.
Anglican vicars aren't meant to be like Peter Seller's John Smallwood - who really does hold to the Gospel rather than doctrine, and is appointed vicar, by mistake, of a decidedly complacent and snooty town. What follows gently pokes fun at the double standards.
All in all, this remains one of Seller's gentlest, truest, and straightest characterisations. Like Alec Guinness he really does become the character he's playing - from the hair to the accent to the smallest gestures, but more than that, here, is the heart. He captures something ethereal that we would all recognise as sincerity and good intentions.
When he introduces true gospel values everything, of course, starts to fall apart. Historically, this is interesting in that Billy Graham has come to Britain and there is something of that spirit about this; but it is no way heavy handed or blunt.
Heavens Above! resorts to a weak ending - wish he'd been sent to the East End of London or Liverpool - but it remains a wonderful film well worth the time to catch when it comes around.