Monday, February 25, 2008

A salute to the staggeringly incompetent

I am pleased to see that the 1960 British comedy Make Mine Mink is available on DVD. Terry-Thomas stars as a retired British World War II officer now loving out a dull existence in a rooming house with several similarly aged ladies. Everything changes when one day, a couple living in an apartment in the same building get into an argument, and the husband throws the wife's fur onto their balcony. The retirees' young maid, who had a past as a petty criminal, fishes for the "unwanted" fur, and this gives the retirees an idea: one of them works for a charity, so the group of them will work together to raise money for the charity by stealing furs and fencing them.

Terry-Thomas, having been in in the military, decides to plan each of the heists with the utmost precision. Unfortunately for him, however, his accomplices display Murphy's Law in spades. Either that, or they're the "gang that couldn't shoot straight" -- on steroids. Not only does everything that can go awry actually go awry, it goes unimaginably and hilariously far off the mark, except for one thing: the fur heists are actually successful, in that they end up netting out retirees furs to fence, and money for the charity.

Of course, this is not without problems. The police are on to the fact that there's a gang stealing furs, but they're incompetent themselves, despite the fact that one of their number is in love with the retirees' maid. Also, the charity is seeing the donations, and wants more such donations, leading to a dilemma for our "heroes": how are they going to stop?

This movie is one non-stop riot from beginning to end, with unexpected twists and turns, with some background sight and sound gags that you have to watch carefully for. For example, there's a newspaper article that refers to the gang as superannuated beatniks. There's also a scene where Terry-Thomas first tries to fence something (unsuccessfully, but humorously so, of course). Listen for the background music: that's the Anton Karas zither music from The Third Man, both incongruous and fitting at the same time, and of course eliciting a laugh as it plays.

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