Legend Films // 1969 // 125 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard // August 6th, 2008
"Monte Carlo or Bust!"
A follow-up to Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, Those Daring Young Men in their Jaunty Jalopies replaces the aerial hijinks of its predecessor with the world-famous Monte Carlo Rally.
The world's greatest drivers prepare for the Monte Carlo Rally. Setting off from five points spread across Europe, the contestant must travel the fifteen hundred miles to Monte Carlo on some of the continent's most punishing terrain. Those drivers with the guile, stamina, and good fortune to survive this test of endurance will compete in a final race to determine the winner.
Littered amongst these bastions of sportsmanship are more dubious characters: the reprehensible Sir Cuthbert Ware-Armitage (Terry-Thomas, School for Scoundrels), the arrogant Major Digby Dawlish (Peter Cook, Derek and Clive Get the Horn) and his long-suffering partner in crime Lt. Kit Barrington (Dudley Moore, Arthur), the brash Chester Schofield (Tony Curtis, Spartacus), and escaped convict Willi Schickel (Gert Frobe, Goldfinger); these men are prepared to try every trick in the book to outfox their opponents; no matter how underhanded.
Okay, confession time. Despite having seen Those Daring Young Men in their Jaunty Jalopies about a million times growing up (well, okay, slightly less than a million, but it must be twelve times at least), I failed to realize it was considered a sequel to Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. In another act of ignorance, or perhaps just geography, I actually know the film by its original title of Monte Carlo or Bust. To be fair, the connection to Those Magnificent Men is tenuous at best, while the confusion over the film's title is purely down to Paramount retitling it for U.S. audiences.
It's directed by Ken Annakin (Swiss Family Robinson) from a screenplay he developed with Jack Davies (Doctor in Clover). The pair re-teamed following their success on Those Magnificent Men to see if they could strike gold for a second time; for the most part they are successful.
Following a formula that isn't entirely dissimilar to Those Magnificent Men or It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World for that matter, Monte Carlo or Bust (to use its shorter title) is essentially a road movie populated by a menagerie of eccentric characters; it follows their misadventures as they traverse Europe in an effort to reach Monte Carlo to take part in the great race. It's a chronicle of craziness if you will. If the plot sounds a little thin, that's because it is. In fact, one could easily make an argument that the film is really just a collection of comedic skits, held together by the framework of the "great race" plot. But when these skits are as well-staged as the hotel room mixup sequence, as sharply written as the exchanges between Terry-Thomas and Tony Curtis, or as downright hysterical as the sketches involving Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, it's hard to care about any weaknesses in the film's plotting.
Those Daring Young Men in their Jaunty Jalopies is truly an ensemble piece, with some of England's finest comic talent of the time set loose amongst the cream of Europe; representing the United States, we have a hyperactive Tony Curtis, clearly relishing every minute of it all. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, as you'd expect, are a real highlight as they beautifully parody the British upper class, while Lando Buzzanca, as the Roman policeman more interested in chasing girls than cars, gives a winning performance that gets more mileage out of a one-note character than you'd expect.
Standing out from the rest of the cast is Terry-Thomas, as the despicable Sir Cuthbert Ware-Armitage. The man is a bounder, a cad, and an absolute rotter. Prepared to stop at nothing to win his bet with Tony Curtis' Chester Schofield, this arrogant toff (like Dick Dastardly in Wacky Races) has an extremely lax attitude towards rule-breaking, all the time setting his co-driver and long-suffering assistant, Perkins (Eric Sykes), up for the fall, should things go wrong. Despite playing such a loathsome character, it's impossible not to like, and secretly root, for Thomas.
Legend Films grant Those Daring Young Men in their Jaunty Jalopies its first-ever U.S. DVD release. An uneven transfer sees colors ranging from vibrant to dull, while textures occasionally have a slightly waxy look. Otherwise the picture is relatively sharp and, coupled a fine stereo soundtrack, results in a decent presentation for the film.
Some of the humor in Those Daring Young Men in their Jaunty Jalopies is very much a product of its time, and as such may fall flat for modern audiences. The film's blend of slapstick and farce won't be for everyone, while a number of sexist gags stand out in our overly sanitized times. A scene where one of the Italian drivers grabs a young lady and, against her wishes initially, drags her into his bedroom, probably had them rolling in the aisles back in the Sixties; today his actions would probably be seen as sexual assault, making the fact that the lady in question is shown afterwards to have clearly enjoyed the experience even worse. It's all done in an innocent, Benny Hill-like way, but nowadays this type of humor is frowned upon.
Similarly, the film is populated by stereotypes, rather than fully rounded characters. With a lesser cast this would have proved detrimental to the film's success, but with the likes of Eric Sykes and Tony Curtis offering enthusiastic performances, these shortcomings are far more tolerable.
The film hasn't aged quite as well as I'd hoped, considering my fondness for it. Still, Those Daring Young Men in their Jaunty Jalopies retains an undeniable charm and is blessed with a superb cast that ensures fans of classic comedy will find plenty to enjoy.
Though it ultimately stutters across the finish line, Those Daring Young Men in their Jaunty Jalopies is an entertaining journey with a few timeless belly laughs thrown in along the way.
One final, and not entirely relevant, note: the film's director, Ken Annakin, is a friend of George Lucas and, well, you can probably guess the rest...
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Legend Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 1969
MPAA Rating: Rated G