By a customer
, 29 Dec 2008
Having enjoyed Dirty Rotten Scoundrals the 1980s comedy with Michael Caine and Steve Martin, I was intrigued to learn it was a remake of a 1964 film, Bedtime Story. The story is mostly the same: an elegant English conman on the Riviera is annoyed to find his pitch invaded by an uncouth American huckster. They briefly become partners, then rivals.
In the original, the leads are taken by David Niven and Marlon Brando, of all people. But it's a comedy masterclass - in how not to do comedy. Just about every scene in the remake milks the full comic potential far better.
In DRS, there's a scene where Freddie the Yank conman is thrown into a French jail. Steve Martin has a loud check shirt, a big white Panama hat and big shades, he's the epitome of the loud American abroad and out of his depth as, leaning against the bars,he goes all self-pitying and pleading to the unimpressed French inspector. Watching the original we find that Martin filched the entire performance from Brando, with one crucial difference - Martin is funny. Brando - he just aint funny...
At one point, Freddie is asked if he has a reliable local character witness. Martin goes through a minute of exasperated tip-of-his-tongue recall until he gets it at last. Brando just gives him the name. Brando seems to be enjoying himself, but Martin has the comic's gleeful sadism/masochism towards his character's plight.
Later you may recall Caine is required to impersonate a German psychotherapist. He has a cold sadistic tone that goes well against Martin's incredulity. Niven, who plays the same role, is called upon to impersonate a Swiss doctor. And just plays him as Niven, with the same voice and everything. Critics say Caine is always the same, but Niven though urbane really is shown to be a one-note actor in this.
The comic scenes are generally leaden. Worst of all, the film ditches the surprise final twist of DRS, ending with a cop out.
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