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START THE REVOLUTION WITHOUT ME (1970) - PG
"Start the Revolution Without Me" is a comical, loose adaptaptation of Charle's Dicken's "A Tale of Two Cities" and Dumas' "The Corsican Bros," providing a wild comedy about the French Revolution a la the comic mastermind, Mel Brooks. When a set of identical twins are accidentally mixed-up at brith, one is sent to live out a pretentious aristocratic lifestyle while the other is subjected to your typically poor and lowly peasant life. Fate intervenes, however, placing them in the midst of a palace as history goes down all around them.
Written by Lawrence J. Cohen and Fred Freeman.
Directed by Bud Yorkin.
Famous Quotes: King Louie: "I thought it was
a costume ball."
In the same delicious humorous spirit of YOUNG FRANKESTEIN, ROBINHOOD, MEN IN TIGHTS, THE PRODUCERS, AIRPLANE, HOT SHOTS PART DEUX, BLAZING SADDLES, SOMETHING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM and Leslie Nelson Comedies, this hilarious parody of The French Revolution movies and Dumas's novels, including THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK, THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL and especially THE CORSICAN BROTHERS, tells the tale of two sets of miss-matched twins, who become involved in the French Revolution, playing a major part leading up to the fateful day when the peasants stormed the castle.
Orson Wells has fun as the narrator, giving us witty and comical narration, poking fun at narrators of historical films.
At the time of their birth, two women, one a noblewoman, Madame de Sisi and one a peasant, Mrs. Coupe, both arrive at the doctor's house, very pregnant and both about to deliver twins, unknown to the unsuspecting doctor, and his helpers. In the funny excitement and confusion that follows both women give birth at the same time, while their fathers, Duke de Sisi (Maxwell Shaw), and Andre Coupe (Graham Stark), humorously duke it out in the waiting room, in - between their witty retorts to each other.
When the doctor's helpers get confused which babies belong to what parents, the doctor, Dr. Duval (George Cooper), looking at both pairs of twins, that were lying all together, switches two of the babies, so each set of parents will get at least one of their true offspring.
The story then jumps to the few months before the French Revolution, and we see both pairs of mismatched twins. One pair, Philippe & Pierre De Sisi (Wilder and Sutherland), have been raised as noblemen, enjoying wealth and influence in Corsica. They are known as the Corsican Brothers, tremendous swordsmen, with some peculiar quirks, to say the least, much to the amusement of the audience. The other pair, Charles and Claude Coupe, (also Wilder and Sutherland), who were long ago orphaned, are living by their wits in the streets of Paris, and hanging out with the revolutionary group, led by Jacques (Jack MacGowran), though not particularly gung-ho about the group's activities, such as attacking the royal pillow makers, as they are for survival of self first.
This hilarious cult classic begins when King Louie VI, (Hugh Griffith), fearing a coup, led by D'escargot, sends a messenger to summon the famous, sword-wielding Corsican Brothers. The messenger lets D'escargot (Victor Spinetti) and Queen Marie (Billie Whitelaw), see the note before it is delivered to Corsica. D'escargot himself delivers the king's note, and a note of his own to the brothers suggesting that the brothers join him and Marie in overthrowing King Louie VI. After meeting with D'escargot, both brothers agree to kill Louie for half of France, with d-Escargot and Marie ruling the other half. They must come to Paris on a barge, disguised as peasants, carrying a violin case.
Guess which barge that Jacques and his men attack? As a result of this attack, the Coupe brothers, are mistaken to be the Corsican Brothers, and wind up going by horse-drawn coach to the castle, because Charlie had taken possession of the violin case that had fallen during the fracas and landed next to him under the fruit stand where he and Claude were hiding. The Corsican Brothers wind up with Jacques and his men, who think they are Claude and Charles Coupe, all which results in a hilarious consequences for all involved.
This absolutely hilarious screenplay, by Lawrence J. Cohen and Fred Freeman, blends slapstick, with subtle, cerebral humor, and witty dialogue, that has the audience laughing all the way through the film, as it offers a multi-faceted, farcical parody, full of rapid -fire witty jokes and dialog, that has a blast poking fun at human nature, and of the historical accounts told in overused movies as well as the usual traditional ways used to tell it in films. The very ending, the last 10 minutes needed another rewrite, as it doesn't quite work, but the rest of the film was flawless.
The direction, by Bud Yorkin, a master at comedy, is crisp, fast-paced and works well with the cast to bring out the full hilarity of the script.
One aspect of human nature that the film satirically explores is that human beings have the tendency to fight change to the point of being stupid and short-sighted, despite the seriousness of the situation. The Corsican Brothers and King Louie VI give the audience great examples of this.
Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland do a terrific job portraying the very different sets of twins, as both sets go through different adventures, fully showcasing their comedic talent and chemistry with each other. How anyone kept a straight face during filming is beyond me. Claude and Charles have an easier time pretending to be noblemen, and sort of roll with the punches, adapting their plan as they go, while Philippe and Pierre can't pretend or adapt at all, and wind up in the insane asylum for a while, a dirty and uncomfortable place for these noblemen.
Hugh Griffith who is wonderful as the bumbling, cowardly king, fixated on time pieces, is in a classically funny moment, that was a memorable one in hilarity for many in the audience. During the grand ball introduction faze, The king and Marie make their customary descent down the receiving stairs, with Marie in a formal gown, and the king shuffling sideways, dressed in a silly, awkward rooster costume, because Marie had told him it was a costume ball, not a formal one. In-between formally welcoming each guest, he says, "I thought it was a costume ball," laughing nervously.
During the dance part of the ball, people were slyly slipping notes to each other, telling others to kill someone, including the king, who tried to slip a note to Charles and Claude, but can't. As the music increased tempo, so did the note passing. By the end of the dance, the floor was covered with notes. As the music ends, the king yells to them and everyone else, "Kill D'escargot!!!!
Victor Spinetti is great as the scheming and plotting D'escargot, which means snail in French, who is motivated by greed, power and sleeping with Marie. As the movie's pace picks up, his schemes get wilder and wilder, as does Marie's plotting.
Another favorite scene happens at the ball, between D'escargot, and Claude and Charles Coupe, who are being mistaken by everyone as being The Corsican Brothers. The humorous witty exchange is quite funny, which you will have to watch for. The comic delivery and timing between the three is perfect, a great moment in comedy.
Billie Whitelaw as Marie Antoinette, is pretty funny as a woman who turns on her female charms to get what she wants. Her satirical portrayal of a seductress full of plans is well done.
If you enjoy silly hilarity in a witty, clever parody, you'll love this movie.
If you enjoyed START THE REVOLUTION WITHOUT ME, you may like THE PARENT TRAP, OSCAR, WHAT'S UP DOC, THE AWFUL TRUTH, CHARADE, THE BIRD CAGE, TOOTSIE, VICTOR / VICTORIA, and the movies mentioned above, notably the Mel Brooks, Leslie Nelson Comedies, the films of Jim Abrams and the Zuckerman Brothers' movies.