Monday, April 16, 2007

Julie Andrews!

The original 1967 version of Bedazzled, starring Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, was released on DVD earlier this month. Although the movie is not atheistic, per se, it does take quite a few nice pokes at religion. If you’re up for a few hearty chuckles at god’s expense, I recommend it highly.

Background: Peter Cook & Dudley Moore were two of the four performers in Beyond the Fringe, a British comedy revue that tickled audiences in both the U.K. and America in the early ‘60s. (Note: The other two men in the cast were author/playwright/actor Alan Bennett and multi-talented polymath Jonathan Miller, the writer/presenter of the BBC series Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief.)

Cook & Moore worked well together in Fringe, and decided to team up. For the next fifteen years or so, in their radio skits, TV appearances, and theatrical performances, they poked fun at many sacred cows — including the most sanctified bovine of them all, Jesus Christ.

To give you a taste of their work, without infringing copyright, I reproduce below just a few brief excerpts from two skits written by Cook. These are printed in Tragically I Was an Only Twin: The Complete Peter Cook, edited by the unrelated William Cook. This title is misleading; the book is nowhere near complete. For one thing, it doesn’t include any excerpts from the script of the flick I’m touting here. Still, whatever page I open to, I find something that makes me laugh out loud, even if I’ve already read it dozens of times.

from "Religion:
(Pete and Dud are ruminating on our favorite bugaboo.)
Pete: I often wish [God would] manifest himself a bit more, you know, in the sky.
Dud: Yeah, it’d be nice if every now and again He parted the clouds and in a golden burst of sunshine gave you a wave. “Hello down there, you can believe in me.”
Pete: I asked the Reverend Stephens about this, and he said, “Much as God would like to keep manifesting Himself, He daren’t, you see, because it debases the currency.” He can’t go round all the football matches and fetes and everything, so He limits himself to once in a million years if we’re lucky.
Dud: Well, you’ve got to be careful about over-exposure.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Pete: St. Paul’s got a bloody lot to answer for.
Dud: He started it didn’t he — all those letters he wrote.
Pete: To the Ephiscans.
Dud: You know, “Dear Ephiscans, Stop enjoying yourselves, God’s about the place. Signed Paul.”

from "Gospel Truth"
(Peter is a shepherd who was present when Christ’s birth was announced. Dudley is a reporter interviewing him for The Bethlehem Star.)
Peter: [The angel] said “Unto ye a Child is born. Unto ye a Son is given.”
Dudley: Yes. What was your reaction?
Peter: Total shock. I mean I wasn’t even married at the time. And I thought, you know, “Blimey! What was I doing this time last year?”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Peter: When he said “Ye shall find the Child all meanly wrapped in swaddling clothers,” I thought to myself, “Fair enough. He’ll be fairly meanly wrapped. Nothing flashy, nothing gaudy.”
Dudley: Yes.
Peter: But when I arrived, it was diabolical. It was the meanest bit of wrapping I’ve ever seen. What’s more, that kid was barely swaddled. I’d say, it was the worst job of wrapping and swaddling I have ever seen in my life.

You need be neither wrapped nor swaddled to enjoy Bedazzled. But you might like watching it on a wide-screen TV, if you have one in your manger, since the direction by Stanley Donen is a visually witty accompaniment to the clever screenplay.

By the way, if you’re wondering why this post bears the title that it does, you can find the answer in the film.


nullifidian said...

I love Pete and Dud. I used to listen to them on the radio (at least the fairly un-sweary stuff) as a kid, and later the sweary stuff that my parents had on vinyl.

Aah, them were the days! I should see if I can find Bedazzled on DVD.