Bedazzled (Stanley Donen, 1967)
As far as I can tell from reading reviews and web commentary about Bedazzled, the original Stanley Donen movie from 1967 starring Cook and Moore and featuring a delicious roster of folks appearing as the seven deadly sins, this is a polarizing movie: people either love it or hate it. I’m a longtime fan of both Donen’s and Dudley Moore’s, so I’m pretty sure that knowing that you can already tell which side I’m on without needing to read the review. Cook and Moore’s witty script could have used a bit of trimming in spots, but is otherwise delicious, the casting director was dead-on most of the time, Donen’s direction is almost flawless. Yes, there are a lot of qualifying words to be found there, but that’s mostly minor niggles (one is not so minor, we’ll get there later).
Plot: gormless Stanley Moon (Arthur‘s Dudley Moore) is hopelessly in love with Margaret (Women in Love‘s Eleanor Bron), who considers him… a friend. (I can see every male reading this review flinching now. Believe me, friends, I am right there with you.) Desperate to make her see how he feels, Stanley strikes a deal with the devil (Peter Cook), who, in exchange for a crack at Stanley’s soul, is willing to give Stanley seven chances to become anyone he wants to woo the girl. The devil being the devil, of course, nothing is as straightforward as it seems, and aside from inserting himself into the picture now and again, the devil also tosses in the living embodiment of one of the seven deadly sins in each scenario, including Raquel Welch as (of course) lust, Barry “Dame Edna” Humphries as Envy, and a host of others.
Most of this movie is a ball. There I go with the qualifiers again, and I’ll just get the one really, really major annoyance out of the way now: one of Stanley’s plots to land Margaret is as a rock star. This scene goes on way, way, way too long, and for me it drags down the entire movie. Every other problem is minor at best, a little piece of miscasting in a minor role, a joke that falls flat, a bit that’s just a little overdone, etc. Little things that don’t add up to much, save that one godawful scene. The rest of the movie is gold, and well worth your time. This is Cook and Moore doing what they do best, and doing it well indeed. *** ½