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Thread: Mr Topaze

  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: Wales
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    I finally got to see Mr Topaze at a Sellars film season in Cardiff last year. It was a print from the National Film Archive and was OK apart from colour fading which gave it a reddish tinge. A rather quiet, strange and sad little film, not really a comedy, more a character study - a study of an innocent corrupted by small town politics and council wheeler dealing. Sellers also directed the film but his style is not particularly showy, a lot of it is very much like a filmed play but he seems interested in the decor of the various scenes - in the musty school classroom you can almost smell the dust of old books and stuffed animals. His character is quite similar to The Dock Brief, and the aura of the 'innocent' predates Being There (e.g. he is sacked from his school because he doesn't give good grades to the pupil of a rich benefactor). However the film differs from these other studies in a particular way (PLOT SPOILER coming!) in that Topaze eventually decides to become as cynical and corrupt as those around him, in fact he becomes very good at it until he becomes so rich and powerful he buys out the businessman (Herbert Lom) who duped him. The film ends with him back in his old town having bought the school but his oldest friend (Michael Gough) sees how he has changed and loses respect for him. Sellers wanders over to the promenade and gazes dispassionately out to a wintry sea and that's how the film ends - a rather ambiguous, rather bleak fade-out.

  2. #2
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    That sounds a marvelous little movie and it is very sad that it seems to have vanished without trace (especially when the obscure likes of THE GREAT MCGONNIGAL (sic) gets a DVD outing). I wonder who owns the televison/DVD rights?

  3. #3
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    Roger Lewis reckons he saw the only surviving print at the BFI after a couple of years searching. If thats the one I saw they'd have to release it in black and white on DVD because of the poor colour quality. I was told at the screening the Peter Sellars Appreciation Society had a print but it's in a bad way :unhappy:

    Twentieth Century Fox made it so possibly there's a copy in their archives in Hollywood?

  4. #4
    Senior Member Country: Wales
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    Saw a print of this at a Sellers season in Cardiff a couple of years ago. It was quite badly faded, watchable but instead of the colour it was like a black and white film tinted pink - if this came from the BFI and is the best print available maybe that's why it's never been released.

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    I remember seeing this film when it was first released. It wasn't a big box office success. I'm guessing that as a result the studio probably didn't bother to pursue a re-release in whatever form...



    A pity - I liked the movie!

  6. #6
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    In Roger Lewis' biography "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers", he says it took him two years to find a print - "all prints, save one, were melted down and the celluloid sent to Nigeria to be re-cycled into combs. ('You mean', said Milligan, aghast, 'that there are women in Africa combing their hair with Peter Sellers?')".



    On the previous page, he says he saw the film "locked in a bunker at the British Film Institute".



    Has anyone else here read this book? The author ends up sounding as crazy as his subject.

  7. #7
    Member Country: England
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    You can watch it for free from April 30th to May 2nd

    http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-mr-topaze-1961/

  8. #8
    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
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    I enjoyed seeing this again after 54 years....on their site the BFI have labelled this as US film, which is ridiculous !

  9. #9
    Senior Member Country: England darrenburnfan's Avatar
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    I've just watched it at that link for the first time...I'd never seen it before...and it really is very good. It's really unusual and holds the attention throughout. Oddly, it wasn't a success when it was first released and doesn't appear to have been widely shown outside of the Rank circuit. A bit cropped at the sides though by the BFI. The CinemaScope image should be a bit wider. This is more like 2 x 1 than 2.35:1.

  10. #10
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    Here's the BFI article about the restoration of the film. No mention of a DCP being made for cinemas or DVD/BluRay for home use. Perhaps not, perhaps it is only planned for BFI IPlayer.
    http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/n...c-be-digitised

    Slightly pedantically, I got my tape measure out and measured the IPlayer image. On mine it is exactly 2.35. The article does not mention of any colour correction being done as part of the restoration. I guess some must have been as there have been comments that the film print was very faded. I still thought the colour looked rather subdued.

    Still, well done to the BFI for restoring the film and bringing it back into the public domain.

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  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: England darrenburnfan's Avatar
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    You're right, Philip, it is 2.35:1 I've just measured it myself. I suppose that menu down the left hand side of the page throws me off optically.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Country: New Zealand Anthony McKay's Avatar
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    I could not spot Pauline Shepherd as "Lilette"!

  14. #14
    Senior Member Country: England darrenburnfan's Avatar
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    She probably ended up on the cutting room floor.

  15. #15
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    I watched this earlier this afternoon, more out of curiosity than anything else. A peculiar little film which probably seemed old-fashioned and moralistic on first release - apparently it was based on a stage play written thirty years or so earlier. It was hard to decide when the movie was supposed to be set. The costumes and interior scenes certainly had a pre-war feel about them but the street scenes seemed more modern. The square outside the school had a blue parking sign and a round red no entry sign. Perhaps continuity was less of a priority fifty years ago.

    There were some good performances - apart from Sellers I particularly liked Leo McKern's turn as the pompous headmaster. But overall it did make me wonder what the fuss was about.

    Interesting to see that the film appeared on TV a couple of times in the late 60s before disappearing. This link from the BBC Genome project shows the entries from the Radio Times.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Country: New Zealand Anthony McKay's Avatar
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    Anyone got running times for "Mr. Topaze," the BFI version is 97 minutes (same as the BBFC) - but lobby cards and the cast list suggest at least one missing scene.



    This one would have been just before the blackmailer confronted Topaze.
    Last edited by Anthony McKay; 02-07-16 at 11:47 PM.

  17. #17
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    That's the previously mentioned Pauline Shepherd on the right, I think.

  18. #18
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Lobby cards and sometimes cast lists do sometimes include things which didn't make it past the final cut

    Steve

  19. #19
    Senior Member Country: New Zealand Anthony McKay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Crook View Post
    Lobby cards and sometimes cast lists do sometimes include things which didn't make it past the final cut
    True - but I was wondering if there was any evidence that a longer version was ever released.

    I just checked and Boxoffice has the run time of "I Like Money" as 81 minutes!

    Here is the Pagnol version of the above scene:

    https://youtu.be/xnwmIDqlv0k?t=1h30m54s
    Last edited by Anthony McKay; 03-07-16 at 01:19 AM.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Country: England DeadlyStranger's Avatar
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    Really hope they put it onto disc, perhaps as a double pack like they did with some Diana Dors stuff.

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