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Ruy Blas hasn't been funnier since that movie.

"What will become of me? I'm a statesman, I can't do anything!"
Don Salluste
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Delusions of Grandeur (La Folie des grandeurs) is a 1971 French comedy film inspired by the Victor Hugo stage play Ruy Blas.

Don Salluste (Louis de Funès) is a wealthy and powerful Spanish noble who is also the Minister of Police and Finances: a greedy, stingy, hypocrite and overall odious Evil Tax Collector, he preys on the poor and embezzles money for himself. When he is disgraced by the Queen for allegedly fathering a child with one of her servants, he plots his revenge by using his handsome nephew César and then his own valet Blaze (Yves Montand) to trick the Spanish King Charles II into thinking that his wife is cheating with him. However, luck isn't on Salluste's side...


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Delusions of Grandeur provides examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Don Salluste is despised by everybody in the kingdom. The populace loathe him for taxing them so heavily, and heartily rejoice when he's disgraced, burning his effigy in the streets. The other Grandees of Spain are hardly fond of him either, mocking him openly and only caring about his disgrace in that it helps their regicide plans. The Queen is his personal enemy and jumps on the first opportunity to frame him, and the King doesn't look too saddened either from getting rid of a way-too-unpopular minister. Even Salluste's own nephew César, despite being a bandit himself, considers him a crook and wants nothing to do with his plans. Only Blaze tolerates him at best, and even he has a few Screw This, I'm Outta Here! moments.
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Doña Juana, who thinks Don César (Blaze) is in love with her due to some Love Letter Lunacy. In the end, Blaze is given the choice between marrying Doña Juana, or slavery at the Barbaresques. He chooses the Barbaresques. She follows him there.
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  • Added Alliterative Appeal: "Salaud de Salluste" ("that bastard Salluste") gets thrown around quite a lot by the victims of his machinations.
  • Animal Assassin: The Nobles tries to eliminate Salluste and Blaze with a Spanish fighting bull when they end up in the arena.
  • Anything but That!: When Salluste learns his fate for having seduced and fathered a child on the Queen's handmaiden, he takes it well... at first.
    Official: Don Salluste, Marquis of Montallegre, Baron of El Pisco, by order of His Majesty, our beloved king, you will retire to the convent of San Ignacio, where you will take vows of chastity...
    [Salluste looks ostensibly humble and repentant]
    Official: ...and poverty!
    Don Salluste: What!? No, not poverty! Sire, please!
  • Aside Comment: Blaze's comment that the Queen is Bavarian is directed straight at the audience, as there's nobody else in the room when he says it.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: When Salluste asks Blaze to "flatter" him, he says his boss is "handsome", which prompt him to stand on a table and look himself on a mirror.
    Salluste: Do you truly think what you're saying?
    Blaze: Well... I'm flattering.
  • At Arm's Length: Blaze holds the much smaller Don Salluste at bay this way while the latter tries to slap him as he's firing his valet.
  • Bedroom Adultery Scene: Invoked by Salluste. To take revenge on the queen, he wants to demonstrate her unfaithfulness. In his plan, the king should catch the queen in bed with Blaze. The plan ultimately fails.
  • Blowing a Raspberry: The Infanta of Spain doesn't think much of her potential "fiancé", Don Salluste, and expresses it by blowing a noisy raspberry at him — twice — when they cross paths in the palace.
    Salluste: [under his breath] Ugly brat... and ill-mannered, to boot!
  • Brainless Beauty: What Salluste thinks of the Queen. He counts on this for his valet to seduce her so she ends up compromised in the eyes of the King.
    Salluste: She's gorgeous, but she's dumb.
  • Breaking the Bonds: Played for laughs; at the very end, despite being chained to the Wheel of Pain, Blaze effortlessly breaks his bonds to flee in the desert upon seeing that Doña Juana has followed him to the Barbaresques.
  • Ceiling Banger: Blaze the valet is keeping his master Don Salluste awake by dancing the flamenco and singing in the small room right atop the luxurious bedroom in his enthusiastic love for the Queen. Since it's a castle, the ceiling is very high and Salluste has first to build up an improbable pile of furniture and chairs to reach it. Then he bangs the ceiling with the handle of a halberd, to no avail... until the tip goes through all the way, right between Blaze's feet. The sassy valet then pulls on it, making Salluste lose his footing and the pile of furniture collapse underneath him just as he clings to the halberd. Then, he shouts at Blaze to let go, and the latter complies... letting Don Salluste fall from a good height, the blade of the halberd landing pointy end first and sending a comical vibration throughout the irate nobleman.
  • Confusion Fu: Blaze finds himself at one point facing a nobleman who seems to be a much better fencer than him. His solution? Taunt his opponent with erratic sword moves, before literally kicking his butt.
  • Corrupt Politician:
    • Just about every one of the Grandees of Spain except Salluste are in on the plot to murder the royal couple over the Queen's idea of removing their tax exemption. Those who weren't caught instead protest at the idea of the rich paying taxes.
    • Salluste himself, as Minister of Finances, splits collected taxes into two piles: one for the king, and one for himself. He would probably be in on the above conspiracy, had he not been such a repulsive man that even the conspirators wanted nothing to do with him.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: King Charles II doesn't take well to the idea that the Queen could have a lover. As he is fencing at the time he learns of it, he first takes it out on the poor weaponmaster, who can barely keep up. Then, once guided by Salluste to the alleged cheaters, he pulls out his sword and seems pretty ready to skewer them.
  • Deadly Disc: Salluste and Blaze fight the nobles trying to kill them by throwing metal plates at them.
  • Disguised in Drag: When he fails to convince his nephew to help him with his scheme, Salluste dresses as a Spanish Grande Dame to approach his ex-valet Blaze. He really needs the disguise, because he's one of the most hated people in Spain — the mob is burning his effigy right next door on a public place.
  • Double Take: An epic one when Salluste guides the King of Spain to the bedroom where they expect to surprise the Queen with her lover... only to find her old gouvernante, Doña Juana, in the arms of Blaze the valet. Salluste double-takes, closes the door hastily and starts speaking gibberish out of shock.
  • Downer Ending: While not quite as bad as the original play (where Ruy Blas willingly takes poison after killing Don Salluste, the Queen having forgiven his impersonation), the ending still has Blaze not only arrested, stripped of his titles, sent to a Saharan prison... and Doña Juana follows him there.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Don Salluste is introduced doubling the taxes on the already poor peasants after learning they had a bad harvest. This proves what a mean, classist jerk he is.
    Salluste: The poor are made to be very poor, and the rich to be very rich!
  • Everybody Laughs Ending: All of the Barbaresque slaves, including Salluste, cannot help burst into laughter despite their dire situation upon seeing Blaze fleeing in the desert with Doña Juana in tow, just as the credits roll.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Salluste's primary enforcer is a one-eyed man wearing an eyepatch. Despite this, he proves to be a crack shot and manages to capture César, who was easily beating up Salluste's other henchmen.
  • The Film of the Play: The film is a (very) loose adaptation of Ruy Blas, a tragedy by Victor Hugo. The film opens with the following warning:
    Any likeness with the characters of a famous drama would only be the result of an unfortunate coincidence. However, the authors would like to thanks Mister Victor Hugo for his precious collaboration.
  • Fowl-Mouthed Parrot: The parrot delivers some insults to Salluste before going to the bedrooms of Doña Juana and the Queen.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: It's extremely unlikely that Don Salluste, who's old and solely interested in money, would have fathered a child with one of the Queen's handmaidens. In fact, he reacts with shock to the mere concept and heartily denies it.note 
    Queen: You refuse to recognize the baby of my lady-in-waiting?
    Don Salluste: I can't recognize him, I've never met him!
However, considering he's utterly crooked and has been stealing tax money that belonged to the kingdom for years now, it's obvious the Queen has seized this pretext to finally put him into disgrace, rather than bother proving his actual crimes.
  • Get Out!: As Salluste is still hanging around after the botched assassination attempt (which happened after his official disgrace), an official points him away and tells him "To the Puerta del Sol!", since the king just gave him five minutes to leave Madrid and never come back.
  • Gone Horribly Right: By Sabotaging Don Salluste's carriage and telling the villagers to follow, Blaze was just hoping for some of the gold taken by the evil tax collector to leak out and return to their owners. He never expected the whole underside to give way, leaving Don Salluste and all his treasure behind at the mercy of the angry crowd. As a result, the very scared noble ends up rather furious with his valet.
  • Gratuitous German:
    • Don Salluste attempts this when he thinks the Queen is there to congratulate him on his marriage to the Infanta. It doesn't ingratiate him at all.
    • The Queen herself has a tendency to speak in German (as she's Bavarian).
  • Height Angst:
    • The diminutive Don Salluste forces his valet Blaze to kneel next to him while serving breakfast.
      Salluste: You're my valet. You're too tall!
    • The other Grandees of Spain all tower above Don Salluste — the actors were deliberately chosen by the director to be as tall as possible, to make De Funès look even smaller in comparison.
  • Heroism Equals Job Qualification: After Blaze, as Don César, saves the Monarchs of Spain from a bomb and exposes the ringleader of the conspiration, the King rewards him with the titles of his "uncle", the recently disgraced Don Salluste, as well as the latter's role of Minister of Finances.
  • Hot Potato: When Blaze barges in the throne room during Don Salluste's Insignia Rip-Off Ritual and yells that the cushion contains a bomb, Salluste throws it to the King by reflex, who throws it away back to Salluste, then into the arms of the Grandees of Spain who keep throwing the smoking cushion to each other, until it falls at the feet of the Queen, who screams and faints. Then Blaze rushes in to kick it out the window, where it lands in the arms of the man who made the bomb.
  • Hunting "Accident": Don Salluste mentions that, after his planned marriage with the Infanta, the King and everybody in the line of succession might very well have lots and lots of hunting "accidents".
  • Hurt Foot Hop: After he kicks the cushion filled with a bomb through a window for Relocating the Explosion, Blaze hops around a bit while holding his foot, as the thing was damn hard and heavy.
  • Iconic Item: In-universe, Don Salluste seems to be well-known for wearing a pair of green gloves. To the point that the baby he has allegedly fathered is wearing a pair of identical small gloves as "family resemblance".
  • Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: After falling in disgrace, Don Salluste has to go through a humiliating ceremony before the King and Queen, where his titles of nobility are stripped from him. This includes the pendant of the "Order of the Golden Fleece", by way of first (painfully) pulling his ruff atop his face. Before that, the King orders him to retire in a monastery, where he'll take vows of chastity... and poverty.
    Salluste: No, not poverty! Sire, please!
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: When he learns that there is an conspiracy against his valet Blaze who is posing as his nephew coming from the Americas, Salluste wants to save him... so he can be caught in a Bedroom Adultery Scene scheme so his master can regain his power and wealth.
    Salluste: If someone kill him tomorrow... I can't make him be caught by the King in the Queen's bed. And the King cucked by my valet, THAT is my revenge!
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The main plot begins with Salluste finally losing his wealth and power at the hands of the Queen after embezzling money for years (and allegedly getting one of her ladies-in-waiting pregnant). Later, after selling his own nephew into slavery, Salluste himself ends up being sold as well.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: Salluste has a habit of kicking the ass of servants when upset, especially Blaze. Then, after his disgrace, he disguises into a valet and Blaze, as Don César, grabs the opportunity to return the favor. Even after Salluste kidnaps Blaze and has him tied up to a chair, Blaze manages to give him a good kick with both feet, sending him sprawling. Salluste, in outrage, complains that it's the third time this very day that Blaze has kicked his ass.
    Salluste: Me! A Grandee of Spain!
    Blaze: The ass of a little one is well worth the ass of a Grandee!
  • Lovable Rogue: César, Salluste's nephew, is described as a bandit, but he is dashing and handsome, and he initially thwarts Salluste's henchmen with ease. Also, he wants nothing to do with his crooked uncle's plans. He's the only one who manages to escape the Barbaresques' forced labour.
  • Made a Slave:
    • Don César is sold as slave by Salluste because he does not accept to seduce the queen. He later escapes.
    • A grandee is sold as slave because he was the brain of a plot to assassinate the king.
    • In the end, Salluste is sold as slave because his plan to demonstrate the unfaithfulness of the Queen failed. At the same time, Blaze is sold as slave because he refused to marry Doña Juana.
  • Mad Libs Catchphrase: Whenever Doña Juana addresses the Queen, she always starts with "A queen of Spain doesn't..." before specifying whichever point of etiquette she's enforcing. The Queen, unsurprisingly, is soon fed up with it.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Salluste, disguised as a Grande Dame, approaches Blaze in a tavern and start telling him he regrets having fired him and keeps thinking about him, even going so far as to caress his hand. Unsurprisingly, Blaze is very uncomfortable and ready to bolt. Of course, the disgraced noble just wants to use Blaze as a proxy to compromise the Queen, his own nephew having refused.
  • Money Fetish: Don Salluste is so ridiculously greedy that he is nearly a parody of The Scrooge himself. He is obsessed with riches, and can never have enough, embezzling as much of the taxes as he can. He wakes up in the morning to the sound of gold coins cascading in a bowl, courtesy of his valet. And if only one coin happens to be missing from the bowl, Salluste can guess it immediately by sound.note 
    Blaze: [while making rain coins in a bowl] It's time... It's time... It's time to wake up...
    [Salluste is still asleep but puts a happy face]
    Blaze: My lord... It's 8 o'clock...
    [Salluste does a "rewind" gesture and Blaze, annoyed, obliges]
    Salluste: [does a grabbing gesture, then suddenly wakes] There's one missing!
    Blaze: Are you sure?
    Salluste: Absolutely sure!
    Blaze: Well, damn...
  • Money to Throw Away: Don Salluste has just taxed a village dry, mostly in the form of coins and precious metal items. His manservant sabotages the carriage and tells the villagers to follow them, so that when Salluste helps himself to "his" share of the taxes and puts them in the back, they fall into the road. Then the undercarriage falls out...
  • Motivation on a Stick: Salluste, riding a donkey, makes it move with a carrot dangling from a stick. Without it, the mount instead just does whatever it wants, including dragging Salluste under a waterfall.
  • Not Me This Time: After a bomb goes off during Salluste's Insignia Rip-Off Ritual, the guards find him clinging to the top of a large painting repository while claiming his innocence.
    Salluste: No, Sire! For once it wasn't me! I was here... I was praying.
  • Old Man Marrying a Child: Don Salluste has views on the Infanta of Spain, whom Blaze calls his "fiancée". Of course, this is solely for the influence it would grant him, and a spot in the throne succession. He doesn't care about the child, whom he considers an ugly, ill-mannered brat. His disgrace, of course, put a serious hamper on these plans.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: At the end, the Bedouin chief comments about his Wheel of Pain, which is now for the most part being pushed by disgraced Spanish nobles:
    Sheikh: [subtitled from Arabic] I have the most chic penal colony of the whole Sahara!
  • Pie in the Face: Blaze, as Don César, opens the fight against the nobles trying to kill him by sending the poisoned cake in the faces of two of them, after cutting it in two with his sword.
  • Relocating the Explosion: A bomb disguised as a cushion starts smoking, intended to kill the King and Queen of Spain. A game of Hot Potato begins before Blaze finally kicks it out the window... into the arms of the very surprised Giuseppe, who'd made the bomb in the first place.
  • Running Gag: Whenever someone is sold into slavery at the Barbaresques, they are seen arriving above the oasis where the Wheel of Pain is situated, and their guards send them finishing the trip by tumbling down a dune.
  • Sadistic Choice: At the very end, Blaze is given the choice by the King to either marry Doña Juana, or be sold into slavery at the Barbaresques. He chooses the Barbaresques. And then she follows him there.
  • The Scrooge: Salluste's defining character trait. When he orders Blaze to tell a big lie, Blaze only has to claim that he found 300,000 coins in Salluste's spare clothes and hid them under his bed for Salluste to leap onto the bed and start tearing it apart.
  • Servile Snarker: Blaze is Don Salluste's valet... but even when he isn't outright sabotaging Salluste's money-grubbing plans, he's serving him by making a few snarky quips there and there, or with lots of eye rolls when silent.
  • Shake Someone, Objects Fall: After his disgrace, Don Salluste is trying to stop the servants removing all his ill-gotten riches from his chambers by intercepting the gold coins and other precious dishware and stuffing them in his pants. As he tries to get away with his pants overstuffed, his ex-valet Blaze catches him and starts shaking vigorously the greedy old man, making the many precious items fall off.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Salluste, dragged under a waterfall by his donkey, puts on a wide-brimmed hat. The water makes the front and back of the hat curl up, ending up looking like a bicorne, and Salluste puts a hand in his vest, in a reference to Napoléon Bonaparte.
      Don Salluste: ... and returns me to power.
    • The Infanta of Spain looks like she stepped straight out of the painting Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez. Many of the costumes were inspired by Velázquez's paintings, in fact.
    • The motto of the conspirators, "Un pour tous, chacun pour soi" ("One for all, everyone for himself"), is a parody of the motto of The Three Musketeers, "All for one and one for all".
  • Sleazy Politician: Don Salluste, Marquess of Montalegre, Baron Del Pisco, Minister of Finances and Police under Charles II of Spain and tax collector. Disgraced by the Queen for allegedly fathering an illegitimate child, he plots his revenge by sending his handsome nephew and then his own valet in order to regain his wealth and power.
  • Smug Snake: Salluste, who arrogantly exploits others around him.
  • The Speechless: Salluste has a mute manservant (Paul Préboist) who communicates mostly by pantomine for further comic relief.
  • Spit Shine: Blaze (as César) and King Charles II have a bonding moment spitting to shine their leather boots (the king wanted to know why César's boots were always shinier than his own).
  • Stalling the Sip: Blaze (as César) is offered a birthday cake which he knows to be poisoned. Before he cuts it, he makes a big deal about how there's a fly buzzing around and walking on the cake... and now it's dead. The conspirators are angrily telling him to cut the cake already, so he throws it at them to escape.
  • Super Gullible: Salluste is very easy to manipulate if you know which buttons to push.
    Salluste: What about lying, can you lie? It's very useful at the court... Tell me a big lie, and we'll see if I believe you or not. A big one, got it?
    Blaze: Well, yesterday, in the pockets of Monseñor's green suit...
    Salluste: Yes?
    Blaze: I found three hundred thousand ducats.
    Salluste: WHAT! Where'd you put them!?
    Blaze: Under my mattress.
    [Salluste starts ripping the mattress apart without finding a single one of the supposed 300,000 coins]
    Salluste: THIEF! THIEF! You've stolen from me!
    Blaze: No my lord, I lied to you.
    [hat flourish]
  • Swapped Roles: At the beginning of the movie, Don Salluste is the Minister of Finances and Blaze is his valet; he is seen, among other things, helping with his master's bath. Toward the end, Blaze as Don César has become the new Minister of Finances and Salluste has to disguise as a servant (with Blaze at one point punishing him to keep the pretense). They even end up in a full reversal with Salluste giving Blaze a makeover... however, it's subverted because Salluste has kidnapped him and Blaze is tied up to the chair. The old noble takes advantage of the position for a bit of payback (although Blaze manages to kick back).
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: The queen is portrayed sympathetically, even if she is willing to cheat on her husband with Blaze. In the end, she cheats on the king with Don César. Her behaviour is seemingly justified by the fact that she is a young woman who gets bored in a foreign country.
  • That Liar Lies: Don Salluste vehemently denies when the Queen accuses him of having fathered a child with one of her handmaidens. When said Bavarian servant confirms it is true, Salluste explodes:
    Salluste: Liar! She's a liar! She's lying in German! This child is a false witness!
  • This Is a Work of Fiction: The film opens with a parody:
    Any likeness with the characters of a famous drama would only be the result of an unfortunate coincidence. However, the authors would like to thanks Mister Victor Hugo for his precious collaboration.
  • Time Skip: After Salluste's disgrace, the movie skips to six months later, with Don César/Blaze as the new minister of finances taxing the rich instead of the poor, among other reforms.
  • Toros y Flamenco: The movie is set in XVIIth century Spain, mostly in Madrid. There are actual scenes of tauromachia and flamenco dancing.
  • Uptown Girl: Blaze, a valet, and the queen of Spain fall in love.
  • Verbal Backspace: Salluste on entering Blaze's room:
    Salluste: This place is a dump! How can you live in such a pigsty?
    Blaze: This is where Monseñor houses his servants.
    Salluste: Very nice place you've got here.
  • Villainous Breakdown: At the end of the movie, when he's a prisoner in the Sahara, Salluste's plans involve escaping the oasis, returning to Madrid, getting the king to repudiate the queen, the duegna marrying the parrot, Cesar becoming king, and Salluste marrying him and becoming the queen.
  • Villainous Crossdresser:
    • It's not out of habit but for his safety: Salluste dresses as a Spanish Grande Dame to approach Blaze in a tavern. He needs the disguise because the mob is burning his effigy right next door on a public place.
    • At the very end, Salluste's grand plan to regain power? To be crowned queen. He's not exactly clinging to sanity by this point.
  • Villain Protagonist: While most of Louis de Funès's roles were at worst Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonists, Salluste is a true bad guy (with Blaze as a Beleaguered Assistant). A corrupt, greedy, snobbish, bad-tempered nobleman who is enjoying abusing his power and living in luxuries on the back of the people of Spain and without any redeeming quality. Whether as an Evil Tax Collector, or later after his disgrace scheming to discredit the Queen at all cost. Still, he stays Laughably Evil throughout. And, as De Funès performance always show, the slapstick he suffers all over the movie is Laser-Guided Karma.
  • Visual Pun: The Grandees of Spain are called "Les Grands d'Espagne" in French, which means "The Great Ones", but can also be translated as "The Tall Ones"; with the exception of De Funès, the actors were selected for their sizes, making their moniker quite literal.
  • Voiceover Letter: When the King of Spain reads the anonymous letter he received, we hear its content in Salluste's voice. Along with a bit of The Tape Knew You Would Say That.
  • Wheel of Pain: The Barbaresque's forced labour — where César, the regicide noblemen and, at the end, Salluste and Blaze are sent to — consists of a large wheel that pumps water for a tiny "pet" palm tree of a Bedouin chief.
  • You Can Leave Your Hat On: Doña Juana (Alice Sapritch), in a rather famous scene for French cinema, performs a striptease for Don César, under Blaze's horrified eyes. (One specific hip move was done by a body double; you can tell because she's much thinner than Alice Sapritch was.)

Alternative Title(s): La Folie Des Grandeurs

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