Niven and Cleese Shine in B-Movie Gem

“The Statue” is not a long lost, hidden gem to be rediscovered, but rather an odd piece of cinema with a mostly better-than-average cast, that will leave audiences scratching their heads. The laughs in this comedy are few and far between, but this movie manages to entertain throughout, which redeems this picture from total obscurity. Thankfully, a company like Code Red is daring enough to release this on DVD, which will allow audiences’ to form their own opinions on this curio-piece.

The premise for this picture is centered around Alex Bolt, (David Niven) who is a Nobel Prize winning linguist from England. He has created a universal language, which will allow the world to communicate with each other, and because of his hard work, they are creating a statue to honor him.

A point of interest for the viewer, it would have been great if when people were speaking this universal language that they translated it for the audience. Just speaking the language doesn’t necessarily make it funny and this idea really needed to be expanded upon.

Naturally, they feel his wife, Rhonda (Virna Lisi) can best capture the essence of this humble man. She creates a statue that captures her husband perfectly with one large exception, that exaggerates just how well endowed her husband actually is. Bolt, who is often traveling, obtains a list of names that have visited his house while he was away, and sets out to discover the model for the statue.

The movie’s humor comes from just how funny it is to see Niven trying to sneak a peek at men in various locations, such as spas, and bathrooms. Eventually and logically, the United States army, headed by Robert Vaughn, become involved and this for some reason or another leads to public strip searches across the world.

It is impossible to imagine what producers had in mind when making this debacle, but what is even more perplexing is the participation of Niven. Niven had an interesting career, and appeared in some lousy films, “Casino Royale” (1967) but never a picture this bizarre. However, he is a major reason why this picture is entertaining, and his conviction in this role is why audiences should see this picture. A lesser actor would have made this a DVD that goes straight in the trash, but Niven and his inability to give a bad performance manages to retain your attention throughout.

Only one other actor in this picture manages to steal the scene away from Niven, and that is a very young John Cleese. Cleese plays Harry, who is a psychiatrist that hates people and uses his degree to exploit needs in advertising. Bolt is best friends with Harry and often seeks comfort in his advice often tricking him back into being a psychiatrist. This original bit of comedy and the chemistry between Niven and Cleese gels in these few scenes.

The best scene the two share is when Harry is desperately trying to shoot a commercial and Bolt lays down in one chair to seek advice. As Harry sets up the commercial in the various rooms surrounding, Bolt carries the chair to each room, lays down, and begins talking again. The scene ends with Harry realizing Bolt is trying to trick him into being a psychiatrist.

However, a major downfall to the picture is the miscasting of the luscious Lisi. While Lisi is delightful to look at, her acting abilities are practically nonexistent. Niven and Lisi have absolutely no chemistry to hang this picture on. One even wonders if Bolt is gay, simply because he rarely seems to be around his wife, and would prefer traveling the world checking out men.

Another bit of miscasting was Vaughn, who is not suited for comedy. His demeanor is always serious and he often drags down the comedy that surrounds him. Just take a look at his work in this picture and “C.H.U.D. 2: Bud the Chud.” Then again, it is hard to imagine what type of role does best suit him, since he is the man that forced “The A-Team” to jump the shark.

Rod Amateau takes these good and bad elements and creates a breezy, care-free, 91 minute film, that keeps things fast-paced. Phallic-orientated jokes are thrown at the audience constantly, few work but the film never dwells on the misfired humor. When the film is over, you may realize that you rarely laughed, but oddly enough that doesn’t provide a sluggish-paced picture. “The Statue” is a bad movie in a majority of aspects but has strong value to those that admire this strange chapter in cinema history.

Code Red provided a warning before the picture started, which was regarding the fact the source elements for the DVD were not in the best shape for a pristine video restoration. However, people that love this specific genre, hold a little bit of nostalgia for that crackling, grimy feel to an older movie. In the case of “The Statue,” the presentation isn’t that bad, and you will still be able to enjoy the movie.

Extras on the DVD are scarce, and include the original theatrical trailer, along with Code Red’s usual reel of trailers for previous, and upcoming releases. The reel includes, “Family Honor,” “A Long Ride From Hell,” “Changes,” “Rivals,” “Stigma,” “Derby,” “Choke Canyon,” “The Visitor,” and “The Black Gestapo.” This reel is great fun to view prior to the movie to give that Grindhouse theatre quality and get your hopes up on the forthcoming titles from the company. “Stigma” featuring Phillip Michael Thomas will be released on 6/8 and “A Long Ride From Hell” will hit stores on 8/3. But the strange, “Rivals,” featuring comedian Robert Klein, has the stepfather for a little boy that seems to be in love with his mommy, is maybe the strangest upcoming release.

In spite of all of this, what makes “The Statue” stand out is the work of Niven and Cleese, providing stellar performances in a movie that is far from stellar. Those performances and an exceptional reel of trailers make this DVD a worthy purchase for anyone that is a cult film aficionado.

About Anthony Benedetto 1 Article
I have always had a tremendous passion for the cinema. For me, movies provide a great escape. When done right, the characters and stories are something that I am instantly drawn into. Over the years, I’ve unintentionally become a movie encyclopedia that I often find myself the recipient of late night phone calls from my friends while at Blockbuster [One such conversation between the Editor of this site and the film “Redbelt” immediately comes to mind.] As far as my preferences go however, I love both the cult cinema and the classics. My love of film ranges from features such as “Amadeus” to “Sorority Babes in the Slime Ball Bowl-A- Rama.” I have a long range of film heroes as well that include, Michael J. Fox, Lloyd Kaufman, Robby Benson, Michael Caine and Jeff Bridges. On this site, I hope to teach people about cult cinema and have them rent films that they normally would not, turning you into the monster that I have become. Someday, I hope to be the star and director of my cult film, employing the old stop motion techniques used in films like “Flesh Gordon.”

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for your review. I haven’t seen this one yet, but Virna Lisi is one of the most respected actresses in Italy, so you probably shouldn’t judge her acting abilities based on one role. I’m also surprised that Vaughn isn’t suited for comedy, because I always thought his portrayal of Napoleon Solo in the U.N.C.L.E. series was one of the best tongue-in-cheek performances in the history of action tv. So I guess the problems of the film have more to do with the film itself (script, direction or just bad casting), than with the acting abilities of these two.

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