This is seriously one of my favorite movies of all time. Its about freaking time it came out on DVD (too bad it didn't 6 years ago & I could have saved the $$$ I spent on the rare as hell laserdisc...)
Just avoid at all costs the dreadful Brendan Frasier/Elizabeth Hurley remake.
April 17, 2007
By DAVE KEHR
Of all the film versions of “Faust” I’ve encountered, my favorites are the 1926 silent masterpiece by F. W. Murnau — a reasonably close adaptation of the Goethe play — and Stanley Donen’s 1967 “Bedazzled,” which is Goethe by way of the great Oxbridge comedians Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. The setting is London in the Swinging Sixties, though nothing much is swinging around the Wimpy Bar where Stanley Moon (Mr. Moore) is working as a fry cook.
His Marguerite, renamed Margaret and played by the great comic actress Eleanor Bron, is an intensely bored waitress in the same establishment, though when she mechanically relays orders to Stanley — “one cheeseburger, one portion fries” — he hears angels singing.
Still too shy to speak to her after six years, Stanley decides to hang himself from a water pipe in his sad little flat, a cue for Mr. Cook’s Mephisto, working under the uninspiring earthly pseudonym George Spiggott, to make a tempting offer. In exchange for his soul, Stanley will get seven wishes, one of which is bound to unite him with his true love.
Or so Stanley hopes. The lean, aristocratic Mr. Cook and the tiny, proletarian Mr. Moore, who began performing together in 1960 with the comedy troupe Beyond the Fringe, have a richly ambivalent relationship in “Bedazzled.” Although George fools him every time out, finding the hidden loophole in each of Stanley’s elaborately detailed wishes, they become friends and confidants. Stanley opens up to him, and the lonely Lucifer responds.
Spiggott takes Stanley on a tour of his own workaday world: he operates out of a dodgy nightclub with peeling crimson walls, where he scratches records and tears out the last pages of murder mysteries, two of the irritatingly effective ways he gets people to take the Lord’s name in vain. Spiggott complains as lavishly as any midlevel drone about his arrogant, eccentric boss and the lousy help he’s saddled with. His assistants, the Seven Deadly Sins, include Raquel Welch as a go-go girl named Lilian Lust and Barry Humphries, out of his Dame Edna drag, as a mincing personification of Envy.
All the while, Mr. Cook, who wrote the screenplay, endlessly spouts quotable lines with a dry, absurdist quality (“the Garden of Eden was a boggy swamp just south of Croydon — you can see it over there”) that clearly left an impression on the up-and-coming humorists who later became the Monty Python troupe.
Each of Stanley’s wishes becomes the premise for another satirical sketch — Stanley as a pompous Scottish intellectual, a gyrating rock star, the world’s richest man and a few even more surprising variations — enlivened and lent an unexpected emotional core by the rapport between Mr. Cook and Mr. Moore.
Mr. Donen made his name as a director of musical comedies in the early 1950s (“Singin’ in the Rain,” directed with Gene Kelly, remains the most famous), but by the ’60s he had moved into romantic comedies, bringing his gift for stylized décor and graceful, dancing dialogue with him. In a decade replete with remarkable satires — “Dr. Strangelove” comes to mind — “Bedazzled” remains one of the finest, a film both of lightness and purpose, stocked with some very big laughs. (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $19.98, not rated)