Tuesday, May 25, 2021

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had recorded If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium some years back, but that a heavy rainstorm screwed up the satellite signal so a good chunk of the movie was missing. It showed up again recently and I recorded it again; since today's a Tuesday, I figured today would be a good day to do a blog post about it.

The movie opens with some stereotypes about preparing for a trip to Europe, with a varying group of unrelated people making their preparations. People get inoculations; one couple buys toilet paper because they apparently think European toilet paper is worthless; and another couple, the Fergusons (Murray Hamilton and Peggy Cass), decide they're going to bring their teenaged daughter (Hilarie Thompson) along on the three-week guided tour they're taking because they don't want to leave her alone with her boyfriend and all those hormones.

In London, where the tour is set to begin, tourguide Charlie Cartwright (Ian McShane) is romancing his latest girlfriend, to the point that he wakes up late to meet the group for World Wind Tours #225. In addition to the Fergusons, on the trip are:
Single professional woman Samantha Perkins (Suzanne Pleshette);
Older couple the Blakelys (Norman Fell and Reva Rose);
John Marino (Sandy Baron), who has distant relatives in Venice and is hoping to meet them;
Jack Harmon (Michael Constantine), who served in World War II and wants to see what happened to the woman he met in Rome;
Wido Jenny Grant (Mildred Natwick); and
Bert Greenfield (Marty Ingels), who wants to show his friends back home that he's got a woman in every port.

Once the tourists get to London, they start on a whirlwind tour of Europe that's supposedly nine countries in 18 days, although including the reference to Liechtenstein I think I only counted eight. They suffer through every stereotype of the guided tour of Europe, from overpriced shops where the tour guides get kickbacks (Pleshette's word) or commissions (McShane's word); American food in restaurants; a youth hostel for the Ferguson's daughter; and so on.

Each of the tourists also gets a subplot, some of which have already been mentioned. Among those I haven't mentioned is that Mrs. Blakely gets on the wrong bus at one of the stops and winds up separated for the rest of the tour; a tourist who steals something from every hotel room as a souvenir; and Charlie trying to romance Samantha, with her being ambivalent about the whole thing.

Also along the way, there are a whole bunch of cameos, many of which I didn't spot until the closing credits, which uses a touristic conceit of having vacation-type photos of the cast members with their names popping up on screen. Like the whirlwind tour, there's a whirlwind of cameos.

Unfortunately, as a comedy, the movie doesn't work as well as it might. Part of it is because the movie really plays up the "ugly American" stereotype, and part is because the movie doesn't get to stay in one place long enough to develop a feel. Even though they're in Rome longer, there's still so many characters and storylines going on that it's difficult to maintain focus. It doesn't help, for me at least, that I'm the sort of person who hates guided tours like that. Even in museums or other such buildings, I'd rather have signs to read and go at my own pace, as well as visiting smaller cities that can have almost as much charm as the national capitals. (Then again, I'm reminded of the time I bumped into somebody in one of the small German tourist trap towns and apologized in German, only to find out I'd bumped into a British tourist.)

As a time capsule of the late 1960s, however, If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium is mildly interesting; that and all the cameos. As a fully fleshed-out movie, however, it's not so good.

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