“A FISH CALLED WANDA”— A Very Funny Movie

“A Fish Called Wanda”

A Very Funny Movie

Amos Lassen

“A Fish Called Wanda” is the funniest movie I have seen in a long time and I believe that is because it is so meanspirited. Hollywood can make comedies about mean people (usually portrayed as the heroes), but only the British able to use the sins of vanity, greed and lust for comedic purposes. “A Fish Called Wanda” is sort of a mid-Atlantic production, with teamwork between its two American stars (Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline) and its British stars (John Cleese and Michael Palin). This is essentially a late-1950s-style British comedy in which the Americans do and say all of the things that would be appalling to the British characters.

Charles Crichton directed and co-wrote it with Cleese. Crichton understands why it is usually funnier to not say something, and let the audience know what is not being said. The characters have venal, selfish, shameful traits and he uses these to embarrass them. The movie involves an odd, ill-matched team of jewel thieves whose leader is Tom Georgeson, a weasel of a person who gets locked up in prison after a heist and with him is along with the secret of the jewels. On the outside, Palin, Kline and Curtis plot with and against each other with a great deal depending on Curtis’ attempts to seduce several key defense secrets out of Cleese.

There is one funny moment after another and some scenes are classic farce. Timing is everything and these actors have it down pat. I rarely laugh aloud but I did so here all through the film. Cleese’s screenplay has had audiences on both sides of the Atlantic laughing and the actors are all terrific. and no wonder. Kevin Kline was never better than in his Oscar-winning portrayal of Otto, the philosophy-quoting psychopath. Michael Palin is brilliant as stuttering fish-lover Ken. Jamie Lee Curtis is excellent as a triple-crossing seductress Wanda. And then Cleese, himself, as the pompous defense barrister Archie Leach is amazing. Just the name Archie Leach should bring some laughs. The supporting cast is also excellent all around.

The jokes come fast and we love the stereotyped portrayal of English self-importance and snobbery. All of these elements come together to give us one of the finest comedies ever. You just have to picture

Kevin Kline eating live goldfish, Michael Palin driving a steamroller and John Cleese naked. “A Fish Called Wanda” was nominated for three Academy Awards and Kline won as outstanding supporting actor as the psychopathic Otto. The film has stood the test of time and is as funny now as when it first came out in 1988.

Bonus materials include:

  • Brand-new 4K restoration from the original negative, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original English mono audio (uncompressed LPCM)
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Commentary by writer and star John Cleese
  • Brand-new appreciation by Vic Pratt of the BFI National Archive
  • Brand-new interviews with composer John Du Prez, production designer Roger Murray-Leach, executive producer Steve Abbott and makeup supervisor Paul Engelen
  • John Cleese’s Final Farewell Performance, a 1988 documentary on the making of A Fish Called Wanda featuring interviews with actors Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Palin, Kevin Kline and director Charles Crichton
  • Something Fishy, a 15th anniversary retrospective documentary featuring interviews with Cleese, Curtis, Kline and Palin, executive producer Steve Abbott and director of photography Alan Hume
  • Fish You Were Here, a documentary on the film’s locations hosted by Robert Powell
  • 24 deleted/alternative scenes with introductions by Cleese
  • A Message from John Cleese, a tongue-in-cheek introduction recorded for the film’s original release
  • Gallery
  • Trivia track
  • Theatrical trailer

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring writing on the film by Sophie Monks Kaufman

Leave a Reply