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Bedazzled (1967)

Bedazzled

This one’s for fans of witty, dry, British humor. Bedazzled was co-written and co-stars Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, two of the comedians responsible for the wave of British satire in the 1960s. They made the film after their famous run in Beyond the Fringe, but before each had risen to major international stardom. Without Beyond the Fringe, and Moore and Cook’s TV show Not Only… But Also, there would be no Monte Python.

The Faustian plot involves Stanley Moon (Moore), a short order cook who loves and longs from afar after Margaret, an equally unglamorous waitress who works with him. Stanley does not possess the skills to actually talk to his object of affection (the Devil later informs him this means “inarticulate”), but his voice-over monologue indicates an idealized, poetic future they will no doubt have. Moore is playing his typical role as the loveable buffoon, but this is prior to Author, so there is not the overshadowing darkness of alcoholism.

There’s nothing like a character that reads a book to learn how to tie his noose and combs his hair before leaping off a chair and breaking the water pipe he has tied the rope to. After his unsuccessful suicide attempt, George Spiggot (aka The Devil) casually inserts himself into Stanley’s life and offers seven wishes in return for his soul. Since the vast majority of people never use their souls, Moon signs the contract. The seven wishes divide the film into vignettes, utilizing the duo’s talents in sketch comedy. All of Stanley’s wishes are intended as ways to make Margaret his; the first transforms Stanley into an intellectual, then pop star (my personal favorite), an aristocrat, a nun, etc. Naturally, it’s a mischievous devil at the helm so each wish goes badly because Moon has missed some minor detail. Psychical manifestations of the seven deadly sins cameo as the Devil’s various employees; Anger is the club’s bouncer, Sloth is a sleepy lawyer, and Raquel Welch stars as the “lust”-y maid (never has there been a more perfect casting decision).

With Stanley Donen as director, this is probably the most well shot goofy comedy ever. The film’s visual style is dominated by well-thought out framing, deep focus, and beautiful lighting. Doran is an American filmmaker primarily known for his 1950s musicals such as Signin’ in the Rain (arguably the greatest musical of all time), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Funny Face. Although they all share an expert use of color, Bedazzled has more adventurous cinematography than his Hollywood work, in line with the others of his British period (like Two for the Road).

Moore and Cook’s experience together creates an undeniable chemistry which is at the heart of the film’s charm. They look so comfortable together, it adds believability to the unlikely friendship of the Devil and the future dammed (something missing in the 2000 remake). The film’s dialogue features the social and cultural satire the Fringe group was known for (albeit in a much more subtle form), so you’ll need to be up-to-date on your 1960s references to get the full enjoyment from the Brits’ wit.

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