Release Date(s)1977 (March 16, 2021)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A-
Gaining recognition in the US after memorably appearing in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein and Silent Movie, Marty Feldman was finally given the opportunity to step behind the camera and direct his first film: The Last Remake of Beau Geste. A Monty Python-esque lampooning of desert-based action and adventure films, based mostly upon the original novel Beau Geste by P.C. Wren and its 1939 film adaptation starring Gary Cooper (who makes a surprising appearance in the film), the resulting work is a comic assault littered with visual gags, non sequiturs, commercial breaks, and fragmented ideas and story threads aplenty. It’s also not quite the film that Feldman had in mind at the time. Despite an amiable working relationship between he and Universal, the film was recut and rescored before its release, leaving the original version to only be seen by a handful of people (as of this writing). Still, the film manages to showcase many ingenious comedic ideas that would later be utilized by the likes of Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, and even in its bastardized form, it still resonates as a charming, skillful, colorful, musical madcap that often goes overlooked due to the towering success of other similar works.
Two orphaned twin brothers are taken in by Sir Hector (Trevor Howard) and his faithful butler Crumble (Spike Milligan), growing up to be Digby (Feldman) and Beau (Michael York). Eternally loyal to each other, Beau is the far more good-looking and talented of the two, while Digby is the inferior but no less dedicated sibling. After Hector marries the gold-digging temptress Flavia (Ann-Margaret), the sacred and valuable family jewel, the Blue Water sapphire, goes missing, as does Beau. He later writes to Digby, informing him that he has absconded with the jewel and is off to join the French Foreign legion. Digby then confesses to stealing the jewel and serves jail time to protect Beau, eventually escaping and heading to the Sahara to catch up with him. Flavia soon follows and turns to General Pecheur (Henry Gibson), Corporal Boldini (Roy Kinnear), and Sergeant Markov (Peter Ustinov) for help in reacquiring the jewel. Meanwhile, Digby and Beau are busy battling against invading Arab forces, led by Sheikh (James Earl Jones).
Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings The Last Remake of Beau Geste to Blu-ray for the first time with what appears to be a more recent master, supplied by Universal. There’s a mild softness to it, particularly due to some of the opticals and uses of footage from other films, but it’s a healthy and pleasant presentation nonetheless with high levels of detail and good saturation. Blacks aren’t as deep as they could be and contrast levels could be dialed a few degrees higher. However, it’s mostly a stable presentation with only mild speckling and scratches leftover.
The audio is provided in English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA with optional English subtitles. It’s a boastful presentation with good dialogue reproduction and a surprising amount of low end for the score, music selection, and sound effects, particularly during battle sequences. It’s also clean and free of any major leftover debris.
The following extras are also included:
- Audio Commentary by Alan Spencer
- Audio Commentary by Bryan Reesman
- Audio Interview with Michael York (HD – 15:43)
- Trailers from Hell with Alan Spencer (HD and Upsampled SD – 2:39)
- Radio Spots (HD – 4 in all – 2:05)
- Promotional Gallery (HD – 38 in all – 3:52)
- Behind-the-Scenes/Launch Party Gallery (HD – 19 in all – 2:10)
- B&W and Color Stills Gallery (HD – 21 in all – 2:10)
- Trailer (Upsampled SD – 2:20)
- In God We Trust Trailer (HD – 2:23)
The extras begin with two excellent audio commentaries. In the first with writer and close friend of Marty Feldman, Alan Spencer, he discusses the many differences between Feldman’s original version and the final version that was released, key insights into Feldman and his views on British and American comedy, various aspects of Feldman’s personal life and career, scoring a multi-film deal with Universal, the sweetness between Digby and Beau, Alan Spencer’s own emotional difficulties with providing a commentary, Gary Cooper’s family’s reaction to the film, the sordid details of Universal’s recutting and rescoring of it, and Feldman’s inventiveness and supporting of other creative people. Author and critic Bryan Reesman breathlessly takes us through the film in the second commentary, discussing the beginnings of Feldman’s career, Monty Python’s influence on his work, the original source material, backgrounds on members of the cast and crew, similarities to other comedy films and TV shows, a history of foreign legions and the film’s locations, Feldman’s other influences including Buster Keaton, the various film versions of Beau Geste, the critical reaction to the film, its minor political commentary, the difficulty of the shooting locations, more information about Feldman’s original version, and the effectiveness of the film’s jokes years later. The trailer used for the Trailers from Hell commentary by Alan Spencer is a shorter, lower quality version and features occasional digital noise. It also repeats much of the same information as his commentary. The three image galleries comprise 78 stills of posters, lobby cards, pressbooks, programs, behind-the-scenes photos, and promotional images. The extras are rounded out by the film’s radio spots, trailer, and a trailer for Marty Feldman’s second directorial effort, In God We Trust.
The Last Remake of Beau Geste is a wonderful film that sorely needs to be seen in its original version, if nothing else than to honor the memory of Marty Feldman whose comedic bent and directorial talent were not fully appreciated at the time. Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray of the release version of the film is a must-own for fans of British comedy, armed with two fantastic audio commentaries and other great extras to back it up.
- Tim Salmons