28 December 2008 | Bunuel1976
Those Daring Young Men In Their Jaunty Jalopies (Ken Annakin, 1969) **1/2
The U.S. theatrical release of this follow-up to the highly popular epic comedy THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES (1965) was decidedly ill-timed coming as it did just three days after that of MIDNIGHT COWBOY! and must have made an already inferior product (in comparison to the original) seem quaint and redundant. Perhaps this even explains the film's hacking down to 93 minutes (from an original length of 125!) over there, not to mention its sheer invisibility on TV and home video (in my neck of the woods at least) until now, via Legend Films' no-frills but full-length DVD albeit under its more recognizable alternate title rather than the original one of MONTE CARLO OR BUST!
Perhaps inevitably, several of the same cast and crew from the predecessor are involved here as well: producer-director-co-writer Annakin, screenwriter Jack Davies, composer Ron Goodwin, actors Terry-Thomas (in a way, actually reprising his signature role by playing the son of the character he had portrayed in FLYING MACHINES), Eric Sykes (again as the latter's valet) and Gert Frobe (as, obviously, the German representative), etc. Also like its prototype, several international stars were roped in to fill out the roles of the other contestants: from the USA, Tony Curtis (who, sadly, is a long way from his winsome characterization in THE GREAT RACE ); from Britain, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore (amusing as, respectively, an Army Major-cum-amateur inventor and his sidekick) and, later, Susan Hampshire (who initially tries to detour Curtis but eventually joins him); from Italy, a level-headed Walter Chiari and a typically hot-blooded Lando Buzzanca; from France, a group of three girls (played by Mireille Darc, Marie Dubois and Nicoletta Macchiavelli) who, prior to the start of the race, have a run-in with their compatriot organizer of the Monte Carlo Rally, Bourvil. There are other stars or recognizable faces making guest appearances for no real reason except to add to the fun (and expense): Jack Hawkins and Derren Nesbitt (as jewel thieves that have hid their booty inside one of Frobe's spare tyres!), Hattie Jacques (as an emancipated lady journalist), Richard Wattis and, according to the IMDb, even Paul Muller (but I didn't recognize him).
In this talented company and with the lavish budget accorded, there can't fail to be enjoyable stretches (particularly with every new contraption Cook and Moore come up with after the last one had unsurprisingly failed) and other sundry compensations (not least Jimmy Durante's grizzled intonation of the title song and the accompanying animated credits sequence); however, as I said earlier, the film is not up to the levels of inspiration that permeated its memorable predecessor. Tony Curtis only had one or two major films left before slipping into TV roles and the occasional big-screen cameo, while Annakin wouldn't really be allowed to handle another such stellar cast before a decade's time had elapsed including the umpteenth cinematic version of "The Man In The Iron Mask" in THE FIFTH MUSKETEER (1979).