Saturday, March 26, 2011


You've got to feel sorry for Scaramouche.

For a start, it must be hard living up to the prestige of receiving a shout out in one of the most iconic rock songs of all time. While the rest of the Bohemian Rhapsody crew went on to greater things (Galileo getting a series of space probes, Figaro becoming a retro Japanese car with a cult following, and Beelzebub doing rather well for himself in Hollywood), Scaramouche went on to do an Ursula Andress movie, and as such has now been completely forgotten.

That movie was 1976’s ‘The Loves and Times of Scaramouche’.

The opening credits font: straight from a 10 year old’s pencil case to the silver screen!

It's the French Revolution. Feckless lothario Scarmouche spends his time dashing around Paris, making love to innumerable women and dodging the flashing swords of their enraged husband. Things take a decided turn for the worse when he is mistakenly blamed for an assassination attempt on the life of the Emperor Bonaparte, and, while making his escape, he and his best friend Whistle are dragooned into the army and packed off to Italy to fight the Austrians and the Russians. Once they get there, Scaramouche immediately seduces the only hot blonde within 50 miles.

Yes she’s blonde and attractive, but she’s not Ursula. This is of course an outrage.

When they try to desert from the army, Scaramouche and Whistle accidentally set off a conflict between the Austrians and the Russians. The Russian commander surrenders to them, which thwarts their plans to just slip away from the war. On their way back to their base, they come across the Empress Josephine, played by our Ursula, and inevitably Scaramouche has his way with her.

Apparently women shaved their legs in the 18th century. Who knew?

Or should I say, who cares?

Josephine and Scaramouche part ways, and he and Whistle continue back to their base. In attempting to hand over the Russian commander, and thus become heroes, they become embroiled in the increasingly, and annoyingly, madcap attempts of the real assassins to kill Napoleon, whom they have lured out to the front.

Then Josephine joins them, which allows for at least one scene absolutely crucial to the development of the plot.

This is possibly the breast scene in the movie, or at least the most mammorable.

Eventually the real assassins are found out, there’s a big chase scene with covered wagons, and they are vanquished. Then, as a riff on the James Bond theme plays, Ursula rises up out of the water in a homage to (or rather a clumsy lunge at) her breakout role in 1962’s ‘Dr No’.

"Do you expect me to talk? Because I don't really do talk."

And here we have the problem with the entire rendition of the movie. Ironically, given that Scaramouche is traditionally a stock character in European theatre, in this movie the real stock character was Ursula Andress. By the mid 70s Ursula was so famous, even iconic, for being a smoking hot sex queen that she was included in movies simply to represent the concept rather than to act a role. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, given that there are ficus plants that could act more convincingly than Ursula. But it's still sad to see Ursula inserted into a film as a piece of lazy conceptual shorthand.

As for the other, non-Ursulan parts of this movie… they were terrible. The fight scenes were ponderous and drab, the humour was about as fresh as a Frenchman’s underpants, and the entire soundtrack consisted of awful, synth-heavy music which was about as thematically appropriate as scoring the shower scene from 'Psycho' with the theme from 'Murder, She Wrote'.

So ‘The Loves and Times of Scaramouche’ was basically a disaster. Fortunately the assembled AndressFesters knew two things. One, there was still plenty of booze. And two, our second movie for AndressFest ’11 had a monkey in it. You can’t go wrong with a monkey.

Or so we thought.


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