Classic Review – The Mouse that Roared (1959)

The Mouse that Roared

Tully Bascombe and his men capture an American Army General in The Mouse that Roared

The Mouse that Roared

Directed by Jack Arnold

Starring Peter Sellers, Peter Sellers, Peter Sellers

Review by Jordan

Five years before Stanley Kubrick would launch Dr. Strangelove upon an unsuspecting comedy audience, Jack Arnold crafted an immaculately funny satirical take on the Cold War casting an inspired Peter Sellers in the 3 leading roles (as Kubrick would do also) and playing America as the fool.

When the United States starts producing the wine that they’d previously imported from the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, the world’s smallest country hits its greatest ever recession and the Grand Duchess Gloriana XII (Sellers) tasks Prime Minister Count Rupert of Mountjoy (Sellers…) to conjure a solution. The solution Count Rupert employs is to declare war on America, lose, and accept the mountains of foreign aid from their ‘enemies;’ “There isn’t a more profitable undertaking for any country than to declare war on the United States and to be defeated” we learn. So the less-than-courageous Army General Tully Bascombe (again, Sellers) sets out with his 20 soldiers clad with chain mail and armed with bow and arrows across the ocean to complete the task of surrendering, a task even he couldn’t mess up… surely?

Admittedly slowing (and resorting to a reliance on physical comedy) in its second half, The Mouse that Roared still stands as one of the great forgotten classics; a film that although dated in its technical specifics, remains relevant in its biting themes. Sellers is terrific in each of his roles, with the highlight being Grand Duchess Gloriana XII who enjoys driving around the countryside waving to her loyal subjects; unfortunately none of the supporting players really register much of an effect, but with Jacques Clouseau himself in such top form its of little concern. The film also boasts some crafty animated sequences and a nifty use of the Columbia logo… it’s nice seeing a film aiming to entertain from opening to finish, credits included.

If the quality of a film can be recorded in its ability to be re-watched, then like many Mel Brooks films Jack Arnold’s (It came from Outer Space, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Tarantula!) is of a very high caliber. A Blu-ray or Criterion Collection edition completed with ample special features would be appreciated, but for now the standard DVD edition is all we have and has to do, and to be fair watching the soldiers of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick attack ocean liners with fragile arrows is hilarious no matter the picture quality.

So next time you’re reaching for a copy of Casino Royale (1967) or Murder by Death (1976) for your Sellers fix, give The Mouse that Roared 90 minutes of your time instead, I assure you you’ll be glad you did.

4 torture museums out of 5

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