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Magnificent Two, The (1967)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Magnificent Two, The (1967)
35mm, colour, 100 mins
DirectorCliff Owen
Production CompanyRank Organisation
ProducerHugh Stewart
Screenplay bySidney C. Green
 Richard M. Hills
 Michael Pertwee
 Peter Blackmore
CinematographyErnest Steward

Cast: Eric Morecambe (Eric); Ernie Wise (Ernie); Margit Saad (Carla); Vergilio Teixeira (Carillo); Cecil Parker (British ambassador); Isobel Black (Juanita); Martin Benson (President Diaz)

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Eric and Ernie become involved in a revolution in Parazuellia after Eric accepts one million pesos to impersonate recently killed rebel leader Torres, and become president of the land.

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In 1964 Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise signed a contract to make three films for the Rank Organisation, hoping they could create something genuinely original for the format, as they had done for television in Two of a Kind (ITV, 1961-68). But by the time of The Magnificent Two, it was clear that the series - begun with The Intelligence Men in 1965 (d. Robert Asher) and followed a year later by the better known That Riviera Touch (d. Cliff Owen) - was mired in the low budget tradition of British screen comedy. All the elements were there - farce, slapstick, saucy innuendo and absurd misunderstandings - but the material was below par. Despite regular Morecambe and Wise writers Sid Green and Dick Hills collaborating on the script, assisted by Michael Pertwee and Peter Blackmore, the film appeared little more than a series of sketches tied together by an unimaginative plot.

Eric and Ernie play two travelling salesmen who become involved in a revolution in South American country Parazuellia, after Eric is mistaken for recently killed rebel leader, Torres. General Carla (aided by the eye-catching charms of her Women's Army) coerces Eric into impersonating Torres, and he soon becomes president of Parazuellia. But trouble is never far away...

Unfortunately, neither were the hostile critics. Contemporary reviews noted the film's inconsistent tone, which attempts to combine humour with violent, action-packed adventure. Scenes such as Torres' death, the jailbreak and even the bikini-clad, machine-gun toting Women's Army's assault feel slightly misjudged. The film lacks the lightness of touch necessary to make a South American dictatorship and revolution the stuff of blithe comedy, and the large cast distracts from the jokes in a picture where Eric and Ernie are the only ones playing it for laughs. The engaging bawdiness of a Carry On production is missing, and the duo's variety-style gags seldom deliver. To make matters worse, the locations emphasise the tight budget, making South America appear uncannily like rural Buckinghamshire.

Eric and Ernie's chemistry is never completely ruined, however. Eric's television speech hints at the talent that made him a star, and there is even a witty parody of film technique: Ernie whispers a plan to Eric in jail, gesturing excitedly while obviously miming his words. Eric: "It won't work." Ernie: "Why not?" Eric: "I didn't hear what you said." Overall, however, the film sadly fails to capitalise on the duo's considerable talents.

David Morrison

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Video Clips
1. Pain in el belly (1:57)
2. Jailbreak (2:21)
3. El Presidente speaks (4:29)
4. Bikini charge (2:56)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Hambling, Gerry (1926-)
Morecambe, Eric (1926-1984) and Wise, Ernie (1925-1999)
Parker, Cecil (1897-1971)