The Mouse That Roared Cover Do you love your country? And if so, what would you do to defend it? Would you dress up in drag? Would you fight a fierce foe?  Or would you steal a weapon of mass destruction and then hold onto it for safe keeping? These people might. Director: Jack Arnold; plus Actors: Peter Sellers, Jean Seberg, and Leo McKern. But only in 1959 and for 83-minutes.

The Mouse That Roared : The Film - The Novel

Is it possible for an inferior force to overpower a superior one? Well, if David was able to beat Goliath, what's not to say that the small European nation of Grand Fenwick; wouldn't also be able to beat the United States of America?

Whilst saying that though, let's hope not, huh? Or otherwise the plan devised by the Prime Minister of Grand Fenwick, Count Rupert Mountjoy (Peter Sellers), will not work in the way he hopes it would.

You see, this rather quant and rustic land has fallen on very hard times over the last couple of years. So for it to be able to get back on its feet again, Mountjoy has devised a very cleaver strategy to get them out of this fiscal crisis.

'Attack America. Lose. And then reap the rewards that has always befallen a defeated nation'. 

Great strategy, right? Maybe to the Grand Duchess Gloriana XII (Peter Sellers) it is. But that isn't the case to the minister of the opposition, Benter (Leo McKern), the sickly captain of the royal guard, Tully Bascombe (Peter Sellers), or the people of Grand Fenwick either.

Still, that does not stop them from helping in carrying out this crazy scheme, does it?

Yes. That's right. A small group of men commandeered by Tully and his aide, Will Buckley (William Hartnell), head off to the States, and attempt to surrender to port authority as soon as they arrive there. However, I am afraid to say that this doesn't really pan out in the way that they hoped it would.

Well, for a start, when they touch down on American soil, these 'soldiers' cannot find anyone to admit defeat to, because all of the people in New York City are underground due to a city wide audience drill. Moreover, when they eventually do find some who is patrolling the city streets, they get mistaken for aliens because of the strange medieval attire that they are wearing.

OK, so what can they do instead? Kidnap Doctor Alfred Kokintz and daughter Helen (David Kossoff and Jean Seberg), plus General Snippet (MacDonald Parke) and a hand full of cops?

Oh! And of course, an active Atomic 'Q' bomb that the good Doctor has just cobbled together his very self. 

Ouch! That's nuts, isn't it? Nuttier still, is that this ploy works, and when Tully and his men return home with the 'good news', suddenly, England, France, and Russia to want to ally themselves with Grand Fenwick as well.

Ha! That's most probably why what next transpires all kicks off when Mountjoy throws in the towel. As ministers rebel - ploys go to hell - cops play ball - and love finally conquers all.

Now it would be very easy for me to say that 'The Mouse That Roared' is film way ahead of its time. But still, have a quick peek at the basic premise to get the gist of what I am trying to say.

'A Small Nation which is down on its luck decides to fight America, just so they can reap inadvertent fiscal reward in a defeat. However, through shear luck, this Small Nation manages to gets the upper hand in this ploy, due to the fact that they are able to snatch a 'weapon of mass destruction' from the country that they are attacking in the first place, America'.

Sounds strangely familiar, I am sure you'll agree. Especially for a satirical slice of cinema that was made in 1959.

Peter and Doctor Who in The Mouse That Roared

Though, let's not go down the political route where this film is concerned, shall we? I'd rather go down the filmic route instead. One filled to the brim with old school charm, quaint British euphemisms, and as per usual, filmic-facts: (1) This movie was loosely based on a 1955 book of the same name written by Irish-American writer, Leonard Wibberley. He devised a series of five 'Grand Fenwick' publications in total, which were, 'Beware of the Mouse' [1958], 'The Mouse on the Moon' [1962], 'The Mouse on Wall Street' '[969], and 'The Mouse that Saved the West' [1981]. (2) It's believed that this film was first seen by diplomats in Geneva, Switzerland. The circumstances surrounding this occurrence have never been revealed. (3) The sequence in New York harbor was filmed in Southampton, England. (4) Grand Duchess Gloriana was supposed to be the main focal-point of the story. But when Peter Sellers came onboard this project, the emphasis changed slightly to Tully. (5) This film had a sequel in 1963, 'The Mouse on the Moon', starring Margaret Rutherford and Ron Moody. (6) Peter Sellers wanted to make this film because he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Alec Guinness. (7) The invasion sequence was shot in Manhattan one quiet Sunday morning.  (8) A segment that wasn't recorded for this film, involved a brash battle between the people of Grand Fenwick and the New York Police Department. (9) Peter had stated in an interview that he based 'the Duchess' on Queen Elizabeth, and 'Mountjoy' on Benjamin Disraeli. And (10) This film was adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel in 1963. In 1964 it was attempted to be made into an American television series starring Sid Caesar. And in 2010 it was made into a one hour radio special broadcast on BBC Radio 4. 

Peter Sellers and the cast of The Mouse That Roared

Well, if you have not gathered from my words so far, I really do respect and like 'The Mouse That Roared' -- both as a film and as a political satire. In many ways I like to think of it as Peter Sellers trial run for 'Dr Strangelove' (click here for the review), because its gave him the grounding to play various multiple-roles, whilst at the same time it allowed him to gauge the flavor for a cross-Atlantic political piece. Also, where Peter's success is concerned, this was the film that made him into an international celebrity, as it ran in America for quite some time once it was released. OK, I know that 'I'm All Right Jack' was the icing on the cake for Peter's subsequent notoriety. But it was still this film that allowed that to happen.

The-Mouse that Roared Logo
As for the rest of the cast on the other hand, they did a very good job too. I especially liked seeing ex Doctor Who, William Hartnell, plus British stalwart, Leo McKern, play opposite Peter. Though that is not to say that David Kossoff, Jean Seberg, and MacDonald Parke, did not have a time to shine as well.

Each and every one of them where able to capture that polished sheen that this 'small man comedy' has in spades.

Overall 'The Man That Roared' is a very nice and charming fifties movie. Ahead of its time. Sure. And one to keep an eye out for if you like your comedy with some credence. 


THE MOUSE THAT ROARED THE MOUSE THAT ROARED Reviewed by David Andrews on July 23, 2012 Rating: 5
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