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Film / The Last Remake of Beau Geste

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The Last Remake of Beau Geste is a 1977 comedy starring (and directed by) Marty Feldman. Also in the cast are Michael York, Ann-Margret, Peter Ustinov, Trevor Howard, Henry Gibson, Terry-Thomas, Spike Milligan, Avery Schreiber, and James Earl Jones.

It's a Parody of the classic adventure novel Beau Geste (though, by Feldman's own account, he got Beau Geste mixed up with The Four Feathers, which was what he had originally intended to spoof) and the movies based on it. The movie was severely cut before its release; Michael York has commented in interviews that Feldman's original version was much funnier than the released version, and Feldman himself wrote to a critic at the New York Times to advise him that the version of the film he had seen (which, in fact, he had given a rave review to) was not the version that Feldman had made and wanted to release.

This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Artistic License History: This movie features a real corker. The newspaper referenced in the Spinning Paper entry below features a front-page story about Sir Hector's victory in the Sudan. Smaller headlines report that he defeated the French and inflicted over 100,000 casualties on them. However: (1) The actual Sudan campaign predates the movie by nearly a decade; and (2) In 1904, the British and French concluded the series of treaties known as the Entente Cordiale, which pretty much ended a millennium of conflict between the two countries.
  • Big Fancy House: Geste Manor (actually Adare Manor, in Limerick, Ireland), where Sir Hector and his children live.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The ending of the original novel (and 1939 film) is cheerfully tossed out the window, since both Digby and Beau live and get their respective girls.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Digby, stuck in the Mirage portion of the desert, finds himself stuck within the 1939 version of the movie and escapes from it by tearing his way out of the movie screen.
  • Crossing the Desert: The march across the Sahara to Fort Zinderneuf, complete with camels, Legionnaires collapsing from thirst and heatstroke, and an attack by Arab desert raiders.
  • Dances and Balls: The party scene, at which Flavia is literally the only woman present. Includes a spoof of Busby Berkeley's dance routines.
  • The Edwardian Era / La Belle Epoque: Most of the movie is set in 1906.
  • Femme Fatale: Flavia enthusiastically employs her beauty and sexual allure to wrap men around her little finger in her pursuit of the Blue Water sapphire. Subverted in that, unlike most characters of this type, she ends up getting her man - that is, Beau - at the end of the movie.
  • Flat "What": While Flavia doesn't actually say this, as the female comedic foil she delivers expressions in several scenes (usually when reacting to particularly stupid actions by other characters) that are perfect silent representations of the expression. If the movie were a manga, she'd have that little balloon with the ellipsis in it over her head at those times!
  • Giant Poofy Sleeves: Both Flavia and Isabel occasionally wear "leg of mutton" sleeves, which were fashionable in the 1890's and early 1900's.
  • Good Bad Girl / Really Gets Around: Flavia gets it on with Sir Hector Geste, the prison governor and General Pecheur in pursuit of the Blue Water - but the man she really wants and eventually gets is Beau Geste.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Markov has a huge collection of villainous-looking scars (also see the Scars are Forever entry).
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Flavia dresses to the nines in the haute couture of La Belle Epoque in all her scenes - though her "Gibson Girl" pouf is exaggerated for comic effect.
  • Great Escape: With behind-the-scenes help from Flavia, who's seduced the prison governor, Digby breaks out of prison (in a Homage to silent comedies, referenced below) so that he can get to Morocco and reunite with Beau. (There are shades of Passive Rescue because the suborned gaolers almost literally walk Digby through the escape, with all sorts of assistance from unlocking doors to helpfully posting arrows showing Digby where he should go next.)
  • Hellhole Prison: Digby, having been (wrongfully) convicted for stealing the Blue Water, is tossed into a horrendously overcrowded, cacophonous (so loud that when Flavia visits him, the two have to yell at the top of their lungs at each other to be heard at all) prison cell in which he's chained to a skeleton.
  • Heir Club for Men: Drives the adoption of Beau (and, reluctantly, Digby). Sir Hector reacts fairly calmly to the death of his wife in childbirth, but is absolutely horrified to learn that his only biological child is a daughter, to the extent of furiously chasing away the doctor who bears the tidings.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Beau is smitten by copper-tressed Flavia from the moment they first meet when she's brought home as the new stepmother of the family by Sir Hector...and Flavia is equally attracted to Beau.
  • High-Class Gloves: Flavia, as befits a fashionable lady of the 1900's, wears gloves (usually over-the-elbow length) in almost every scene she appears in - except when she's in bed with someone.
  • Homage: The prison-escape scene is a tribute to silent comedies, especially those of Buster Keaton (Feldman's idol), Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd.
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: White-gowned, white-gloved, bejeweled Flavia goes toe-to-toe with Boldini and punches him out with a mighty roundhouse swing!
  • Leg Cannon: In addition to his scar collection, Sergeant Markov has an entire closet of prosthetic legs. His regular one is an actual cannon, which he employs to good effect during the fight on the march to Fort Zinderneuf. Another one has a built-in rapier. Even his horse and TeddyBear sport a Leg Cannon! He even has a hollow wooden leg in which he's hiding the Blue Water!
  • Legion of Lost Souls: The entire second half of the movie is devoted to spoofing every trope associated with the French Foreign Legion.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Flavia usually keeps her hair up in an often-exaggerated "Gibson Girl"-style pouf, but lets her tresses down over her shoulders and back during a tryst with General Pecheur.
  • Lingerie Scene: Flavia swans around in the Belle Epoque version of black silk-and-lace lingerie on several occasions, usually when she's having a sexual encounter with somebody (though the first time we see her in her undies, she's been stripped by persons unknown while the Blue Water is being stolen).
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Beau and Flavia sneak out of the Foreign Legion ball to consummate their mutual lust in the desert sands.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Flavia's Gorgeous Period Dress, from her elegant peach-and-black evening gown near the beginning of the film to her skimpy (by Edwardian standards) blue-and-white bathing costume at the end, is tailored to show off her shapely figure, usually with a generous helping of decolletage.
  • The Neidermeyer: The egotistical martinet General Pecheur, right down to his Goatee Of Evil.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: When the Blue Water sapphire is stolen, Flavia is shown stripped down to her black corset and red silk drawers at one point when the light is turned off and then on again. She's later seen reclining on a bed, again corset-clad, during a tryst with General Pecheur.
  • Old Retainer: Crumble, the Geste family's faithful butler, is positively antediluvian, with his gray beard hanging almost literally down to his knees.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Flavia's Gorgeous Period Dress is always highly elaborate, as befitting the high fashion of the Belle Epoque and positively dripping with jewelry; in one scene, her black Opera Gloves even have diamond mousquetaire buttons!
  • Pinky Swear: When 12-year-old Beau and Digby make their patch to stick by each other, they exchange a very complicated arm-wrestling-style grip that they have some difficulty extricating themselves from. This grip pops up again when the brothers reunite at the Foreign Legion training base and at the end of the movies, from hundreds of miles apart, using the Split Screen effect, when we see the brothers snuggled up with their ladyloves - Digby and Isabel on the lawn of Geste Manor, and Beau and Flavia on the beach at the French Riviera.
  • Pretty in Mink: Flavia wears a purple fur-trimmed cloak during the prison scenes, and sports a white fur stole when she's visiting the main Foreign Legion base.
  • Reality-Changing Miniature: At one point, a hand pointing at Africa on a globe transforms into a gigantic finger poking into the desert sands.
  • Redhead In Green: Subverted in that Flavia only wears green outfits in a couple of relatively short scenes in the middle of the movie; she's more often seen in black or, during pretty much the entire last third of the film, white.
  • Running Gag: There's a running gag involving the butler and Exploding Calendar, where the butler is desperately trying to stop the pages from flying off the calendar.
  • Scars are Forever: Subverted by Sergeant Markov, who has an extensive collection of scar designs that he changes every day according to his whim.
  • Shot at Dawn: Digby is stood up in front of a firing squad near the end of the movie. He gets reprieved, and returns to England - and Isabel.
  • Shout-Out: To Kama Sutra. During his bedroom scene with Flavia, General Pecheur picks up and reads an illustrated edition of the Kama Sutra. He holds the book horizontally at first, then turns it at a 90-degree angle to study the pictures better...
  • Sibling Rivalry: Firmly averted - Beau and Digby have a loving, mutually supportive relationship from beginning to end.
  • Signature Headgear:
    • During her first lengthy scene, Flavia wears black plumes in her coppery hair to accessorize her peach-and-black evening gown. Later on, she wears a tiara as one of the accessories to her white gown during the film's last half-hour.
    • Isabel, as befits a young lady of the Victorian era, wears a pretty white ribbon in her blonde hair.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the original novel, both Beau and Digby die. Here, both of them live - and John, the surviving brother in the original, is nowhere to be seen.
  • Spinning Paper: When a spinning newspaper is delivered to the Geste family's doorstep, the paper continues spinning even as butler Crumble attempts to pick it up. He has to keep circling around the spinning newspaper so that he can read the headline.
  • Stock Footage: Digby has a conversation with Gary Cooper, using clips from the 1939 version of Beau Geste. In another scene, Sheik Abdul encounters Rudolph Valentino.
  • Sword Fight: Beau and Markov face off with sabers at the climax of the film. Beau wins, but lets Markov live and keep the Blue Water.
  • Taking the Heat: Digby pleads guilty to the theft of the Blue Water in order to protect Beau, who ran off to Africa with the jewel in order to keep it from falling into Flavia's hands. At the end of the movie, Digby does it again, to facilitate Beau and Flavia's escape.
  • Twinkle Smile: The heroic Beau flashes his pearly whites in a delighted grin early on during a friendly fencing match with his brother Digby.
  • Undesirable Suitor: Even though Flavia sleeps with General Pecheur in her quest to get her hands on the Blue Water sapphire, she's less than totally enthusiastic about it:
    Flavia Geste: It's been business doing pleasure with you.
  • Viking Funeral: As twelve-year-old boys, Beau and Digby discuss this custom, leading to the following exchange:
    Beau Geste: Digby, will you set fire to me and bury me at sea?
    Digby Geste: Well, all right. But not until you're dead.
  • Virgin in a White Dress: Demure, blonde Isabel wears virginal, high-necked white silk and lace dresses in every scene she appears in.
  • Voiceover Letter: Spoofed when Digby and Isabel discover Beau's letter; they literally hear Beau's disembodied voice reciting the contents of the letter, and Digby holds the document up to his ear to hear it better.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Digby, who Sir Hector pretty much was forced to take when he adopted Beau, always has to struggle for Sir Hector's respect or even to be noticed at all by him.