The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine

feldman.jpg

A final Orson Welles post for this week of Wellsiana. Welles was a familiar face on UK television in the early 70s, mostly for the notorious sherry adverts but he was also popular on chat shows. For Anglia Television he presented a number of short story adaptations in Orson Welles’ Great Mysteries, but had nothing else to do with the series. His appearance on The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine (1971) is unusual for being an acting role in a sketch series, with Welles presenting and narrating a film about the preservation of endangered British aristocrats. There’s some crossover here with the London sketches Welles had filmed a couple of years before (see yesterday’s post): Welles played an English Lord in one of those sequences, and one of his co-actors was Tim Brooke-Taylor, a writer on Comedy Machine.

I’d hope that Marty Feldman needs no introduction. Most people know him as Igor in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein but in the late 60s and early 70s he was almost another member of the Monty Python team, writing and performing in the pre-Python At Last the 1948 Show (the origin of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch). The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine, which ran for 14 episodes, is very Pythonesque—there’s even a Terry Gilliam title sequence—but the format is much more traditional. Besides Orson Welles, a highlight of this episode is Spike Milligan reading some of his nonsense poetry, and performing in a sketch about competing undertakers. Watch it here:

The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine Part 1 | Part 2

Previously on { feuilleton }
Orson Welles: The One-Man Band
The Immortal Story, a film by Orson Welles
Welles at 100
The Fountain of Youth
The Complete Citizen Kane
Return to Glennascaul, a film by Hilton Edwards
Screening Kafka
The Panic Broadcast

The Case of the Mukkinese Battle-Horn

mukkinese1.jpg

I probably should have posted this when the Monty Python reunion shows were in progress since the first time I saw it was as the support film for a screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail in 1974.

The Case of the Mukkinese Battle-Horn (1956) is one of the few film outings for The Goons, the radio-comedy troupe who famously influenced the Pythons and The Beatles. Joseph Sterling was the director. The 27-minute film features a diminished Goons cast: regulars Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, with Dick Emery replacing Harry Secombe; all three have multiple roles, as they did in the Goons, and Emery did later in his TV shows. It’s a cheap production but packed with silly sight gags, some of which draw attention to the film medium: no wonder the Pythons liked it. Most surprising of all is seeing Michael Deeley listed as producer; Deeley started out producing lowly fare such as this but went on to produce some very notable British films including The Man Who Fell to Earth and Blade Runner.

mukkinese2.jpg

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film

The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film

lester1.jpg

The Beatles’ second feature, Help!, was released on Blu-ray last month. The origin of the film’s visual humour and frenetic style can be found in this short directed by Richard Lester over two weekends in 1959, a collaboration between Lester, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and others. It may be nothing more than ten minutes of sight gags but it was enough for The Beatles to seek out Lester as director of their first two features. (Leo McKern, the actor in the opening shot, also appears in Help!) Considering the subsequent influence of those films—from The Monkees’ TV show on into numerous pop videos—this little film is very influential indeed. Watch it here.

lester2.jpg

Previously on { feuilleton }
Petulia film posters