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A Fish Called Wanda (Prominent Features, John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis)

A Fish Called Wanda: Superb British caper comedy. Written by ex-Python John Cleese, who stars as a stiff British barrister confronted by double-crossing jewel thieves Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin and Tom Georgeson.

Overpaid, over here, over sexed and… perfect for the part? Importing US stars to Britain has never seemed a better idea than in the finest caper comedy of the 1980s.

National stereotypes are certainly the starting point: the Americans are glamourous (Curtis) or just insane (Kline), while the Brits are represented by the uptight John Cleese. The core of an elaborate scam has jewel thief Wanda (Curtis) seducing upper middle class barrister Archie Leach (Cleese). Add Michael Palin as a stuttering killer, and, best of all, Kevin Kline as Wanda’s psychotic boyfriend-pretend brother.

Kline picked up a rare truly-deserved Oscar for a performance which includes inspired moments of physical comedy, most of all a scene where he is desperately pressing his face to a window as Curtis lures Cleese into bed.

Heretical as it might be to suggest it, Cleese is funnier as a restrained, romantic leading man than he ever was in his Python work. Director Charles Crichton, 78 years old when he made A Fish Called Wanda, gives the film all the same combination of pace and wit he brought to the Ealing standard The Lavender Hill Mob almost forty years before. Which makes A Fish Called Wanda a film that retains its power to make you laugh even after you’ve seen it a dozen times.

John Cleese Archie Leach
Jamie Lee Curtis Wanda Gershwitz
Kevin Kline Otto
Michael Palin Ken Pile
Maria Aitken Wendy
Tom Georgeson Georges Thomason
Cynthia Cleese Portia
Patricia Hayes Mrs. Coady
Geoffrey Palmer Judge
Mark Elwes Customer in Jeweler’s Shop
Neville Phillips Manager of Jeweler’s Shop

Casting Priscilla John
Set Decoration Stephanie McMillan
Producer Michael Shamberg
Editor John Jympson
Executive Producer John Cleese
Writer John Cleese
Costume Design Hazel Pethig
Director Charles Crichton
Story Charles Crichton
Executive Producer Steve Abbott
Associate Producer John Comfort

United Kingdom / Prominent Features / 109 minutes / Released 1988-07-15

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