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Film / The Loved One

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"I can give you our eternal flame in either Perpetual Eternal or Standard Eternal."

The Loved One is a 1965 satirical Black Comedy film directed by Tony Richardson (as his follow-up to Tom Jones), based on the short novel by Evelyn Waugh.

The film keeps the basic outline of the book: wannabe English poet Dennis Barlow (Robert Morse) visits Los Angeles and becomes wrapped up in the crazy, often grotesque business of funerals and burials in Southern California, eventually becoming a rival of star mortician Mr. Joyboy (Rod Steiger) for the affections of quirky corpse cosmetician Aimée Thanatogenos (Anjanette Comer).

But with Terry Southern on-board as co-writer, fresh off Dr. Strangelove, it adds plenty more characters, hijinks and irreverence. A notable change from the book is the character expansion of the owner of the Whispering Glades Memorial Park, Reverend Wilbur Glenworthy (Jonathan Winters), a classic shameless huckster who wraps himself up in piety while chasing money. After his brother Henry (also Jonathan Winters) loses his job at a film studio, Wilbur sets him up to work at The Happier Hunting Ground, a pet mortuary that the Reverend secretly runs on the side.

By the end, besides the funeral business, the film gets in some potshots at Hollywood, religion, patriotism, the English, the military, and NASA as well.

Famously marketed as "The motion picture with something to offend everyone!", its bizarre humor was too far ahead of its time and it became a Box Office Bomb, but is now considered a Cult Classic.

"Tropes have become a middle class business. There's no future in them.":

  • Adaptation Expansion: The novel is only around 140 pages. The film takes the basic plot, makes a few changes, then adds more subplots, mostly following Wilbur Glenworthy's exploits.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Wilbur Kenworthy becomes Wilbur Glenworthy for the film.
    • Mr. Joyboy gets a first name here: Lafayette (Laf for short).
  • Big Eater: Mrs. Joyboy. At one point she tries to grab some food from the fridge and it falls on her. She's more concerned about the food being taken out of her hands than whether or not the fridge is lifted off of her.
  • Broken Pedestal: Everyone important in Aimée's life betrays her: Dennis, Mr. Joyboy, The Guru Brahmin and Rev. Glenworthy (who's literally on a pedestal on the huge statue of himself at the entrance to Whispering Glades).
  • Camp Straight: Joyboy is very fussy, effeminate and body-conscious, but he harbors a huge crush on Aimée.
  • Child Prodigy: Gunther Fry, a budding aerospace engineer who lives near The Happier Hunting Ground.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Mrs. Joyboy gives orgasmic groans as she gorges herself on a roast pig and other food.
  • Driven to Suicide: Sir Francis Hinsley, when he's fired from the film studio, and later [[Spoiler: Aimee, after her favorite advice columnist "The Guru Brahmin" sarcastically tells her to go and kill herself and leave him alone]].
  • Fan Disservice: The sight of Rod Steiger in just his underwear when Mr. Joyboy gets a call from the mortuary while he's lifting weights on his bed.
  • Mama's Boy: Mr. Joyboy has a disturbingly unhealthy relationship with his mother, waiting on her hand and foot.
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: A humorous, non-villainous example with "Hump", a cynical and sarcastic, Bronx-accented man who writes a personal life advice column where he calls himself the "Guru Brahmin".
  • Newscaster Cameo: The reporter in the final scene is played by longtime Los Angeles Lakers play-by-play announcer Chick Hearn.
  • Same Language Dub: Robert Morse had to redub all his dialogue in post-production since he didn't quite master an English accent during filming. Jonathan Winters also seems to have redubbed a lot of his Henry Glenworthy dialogue.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Aimée is quite a stunner when she lets her hair down and doesn't wear that ridiculous Whispering Glades white dress and veil outfit.