The Wrong Box Cover Do you know what a tontine is? Well, it is a 19th century investment scheme for raising capital by a group of people, with one very peculiar proviso – only the last member of this group alive can cash in on the policy. Also, it is a loose pretext that is used to make a film by Director: Bryan Forbes; and Actors: John Mills, Ralph Richardson, Michael Caine, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and Peter Seller. This film was made in 1966, and lasts for 107 minutes.

The Wrong Box

Being the last known survivors of a tontine causes a lot of trouble for battling brothers, Joseph and Masterman Finsbury (Ralph Richardson and John Mills), plus for their next of kin as well.

Now, his starts when one of the brothers, Masterman, thinks that he is going to die, and asks his grandson, Michael (Michael Caine), to fetch his brother, Joseph, so that he can speak to him concerning any financial matters that he currently has.

But alas, when Michael goes to speak to Joseph, he is not there, he has gone to Bournemouth instead – and he is told this by his comely cousin, Julia Finsbury (Nanette Newman).

Therefore, because Michael can not speak to Joseph face to face, he then tries to do the next best thing - and sends a telegram to Bournemouth, to inform Joseph about his brothers ‘condition’.

Prudently, though, this telegram is quickly intercepted by Michael’s other not so comely cousins, Morris and John Finsbury (Peter Cook and Dudley Moore), whom quickly accompany their Uncle Joseph on a train trip back to London forthwith.

However, by chance of fate, their train crashes on route, which causes even more trouble for all involved.

And why is this the case? Well, many unknown happenstances suddenly occur that’s why. For a start, unbeknown to Joseph, he leaves his coat behind on the train, which is then warn by a murderer before the train crashes and the murderer dies. And next, unbeknownst to Morris and John, they think that this dead murder is their Uncle Joseph - which it isn’t - because also unknown to them, Joseph then decides to make his way back to London on his own.

Nevertheless, this set of circumstances gives Morris an idea - which is to hatch a plan to hide his 'Uncle's Death' and get his hands on the tontine at the same time. And to do this he: (1) Orders his brother, John, to pack their ‘Uncle’s’ body in a box, before sending it back to London by courier. (2) He goes to London by himself, and tries to gage if Masterman is dead yet – which he isn’t – as told to him by his cousin Michael. And (3) He approaches a ‘shady’ doctor called Pratt (Peter Sellers), and gets him to write out a forged death certificate for his Uncle, so that Morris can then present it to the solicitors after both Masterman and Joseph turn up dead.

And do you think that Morris’ plan works out for the best?

Ha! Morris thinks that it might.

And that is why what next transpires all happens’ due to a case of mistaken identity and presumptions. ;Boxes are delivered to the wrong houses – dead people do not die but mealy rest – and on top of that, Hurst’s race, funerals crash, ploys are revealed, cousins kiss, tontines are saved, and a whole lot of funny business is just going on.

Heck, even the Detective (Tony Handcock) does not know what to make of all of this!

Honestly, I want to put my hand on my heart and say out loud that 'The Wrong Box' is a really great film – I really-really do. Well? It does have an all-star cast of great British actors such as Michael Caine, Peter Sellers, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Tony Handcock, John Mills, and even Ralph Richardson in it! So why can I not like this film more that I want to? Err.. you see, there are a number of things about this sixties movie masterpiece, which does not really tick all the boxes that I wished it would.

For a start, the pretext and implementation to this film is really convoluted, and a lot of what transpires in it is mainly due to mistaken happenstances and presumptions. It is a though that every character in this piece is singing from the same farcical prayer book – so to speak.

Pete and Dud in The Wrong Box

An example of this, is that the main thrust of this story hinges on the ‘disappearance’ of Ralph Richardson’s character, Uncle Joseph. However, he seems to just drift in and out of this film with no explanation as to where he has been what so ever. Also, on top of that, there is the need for presumptions to override common sense - making most of the characters in this film presume one thing with merely a scrap of evidence highlighting this fact. OK, I understand that ‘The Wrong Box’ is meant to be a farcical Elizabethan comedy, done in a style that is rather obtuse for the time that it was released in – the sixties. Still, that is not to say that the material presented should not have been more fine-tuned in places, and less one not in key.

OK, I do have to say they there were many scenes in this film that I really did like to watch - as they were worth the prince of admittance alone. Firstly, the scenes between the two Peters, Cook and Sellers, was a blast – heck, this felt like a different film entirely. Secondly, the scene between the two ‘brothers’, Mills and Richardson, was really funny also – as the sight of watching an old feller trying to kill another old feller is always amusing. And thirdly, it was great to see Michael Caine back in the day and trying his best to play a different part than what he was used to at the time – as it showed to me that he was growing as actor.

The Wrong Box Film Poster

Apart from that though – err – it’s a shame that the story wasn’t a bit better. I wonder why that was so, huh? As this film was adapted from the work of novelist, Robert Lewis Stevenson. Hmm? Maybe if I detract my mind for a bit by presenting to you some trivia - that might help me? (1) Michael Caine’s catchphrase ‘not a lot of people know that’, was initially said by Peter Sellers while he was impersonating him. (2) The director of this film, Bryan Forbes, married the leading lady of this film, Nanette Newman – a woman that Peter Sellers has a crush on. (3) This film was used as a device to showcase a lot of rising stars at the time, such as Caine, Cook, Moore, and Newman – alas, it did not work for them. (4) Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – which some of the actors in this film have been called in the past. And (5) The composer of this film, John Barry, went on to do the film scores for the James Bond films.

Michael in The Wrong Box

Now with all of that out of my system, do I have another opinion about this film? Errr? No – not really. Still, it is well worth the watch for anyone who likes any of the great actors in this film, as well as for people whom like to see old people arguing.

So-So story – A1 actors – but I wished that it was better though, or even as interesting like this...


THE WRONG BOX THE WRONG BOX Reviewed by David Andrews on November 03, 2011 Rating: 5
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