At the dawn of the 1970s, director Rodney Amateau decided to shift gears from the small screen, where he directed episodes of some of television's most beloved programming (Lassie, Mr. Ed, Gilligan’s Island), to the silver screen where he would direct such bewildering cinematic entries as SON OF HITLER, THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE and THE STATUE. The story of one man and his cross continent search for a large penis (yes, you read that right), THE STATUE fails for a number of reasons, most obvious of which is that it isn't very funny. Which given that the picture is supposed to be a comedy, is a pretty big strike against it.
David Niven (THE PINK PANTHER) is Alex Bolt, a linguist whose greatest achievement, a universal language called Unispeak, has just won him the Nobel Peace Prize. Surprised and humbled by the unexpected commendation, Bolt receives such an honor with both grace and humility. That is until he sees the statue his wife was commissioned to sculpt in honor of the event. In the four years it took him to cultivate Unispeak, Alex saw his lovely wife Rhonda (Virna Lisi, HOW TO MURDER YOUR WIFE) for a total of 18 days. While her art helped to keep herself busy through the long spells of spousal neglect, Rhonda has recently found an outlet for her pain thanks to the help of U.S. bureaucrat Ray (Robert Vaughn, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS). Hired to construct a statue in honor of Alex’s achievement, Rhonda chisels out of stone a larger than life, nude replica of her husband, lending particular detail and embellishment to his genitalia. Embarrassed at the prospect that his manhood will be on display for all to see, Alex begs his wife to reconsider revealing the/his piece to the public but such pleas fall on deaf ears. Consulting his lawyers, a rather adorable elderly gay couple, and his best friend Harry (John Cleese, LIFE OF BRIAN), a psychologist, Alex comes up short, finding neither a legal or otherwise rational way of stopping Rhonda from unveiling her latest work of art to the world.
Just when things look like they couldn’t get any more embarrassing, Bolt is thrown into an absolute rage upon the revelation that the depiction of his manhood is not his after all. Furious that his wife has cheated on him, or at the very least has been looking at strange men’s dongs, Bolt throws on his detective hat and begins a global hunt in search of “Charlie”, the name Bolt bestows to the statue's true inspiration. Pouring through a list of every one of Rhonda’s known acquaintances, Bolt searches high and low in a desperate pursuit of “Charlie”. From the gentlemen’s club bath house to center stage of a "free love" performance play, Bolt lets no penis go unchecked; resulting in hijinks that a tub of Enzyte topical cream and a year’s supply of Viagra couldn’t liven up.
Given the film’s ludicrous premise, it’s kind of assumed that all logic should be checked at the door. After all, it's about a senior citizen embarking on a “Where’s Waldo” journey in search for a very specific phallus, but as counterproductive as it proved to be, I couldn’t help myself from questioning the film repeatedly. Why on Earth would Niven abandon his young, attractive wife for months on end and more importantly, how in the Hell did he manage to land such a young wife in the first place? He certainly isn’t a ladies man. And what man is really going to get upset if the whole world thinks you’re packing? Sure, it might be embarrassing at first. All of your bits and pieces on display for anyone to see but consider the worst case scenario, people might come to the assumption that you have a really large penis. Such questioning made it damn near impossible for Niven to come across as a relatable or even likable character and as such I couldn’t care less as to what happen to him. Sure, I was curious as to who “Charlie” would turn out to be but when presented with the answer, it only made Niven’s character seem all the more pathetic.
Time and again, THE STUATE made me question why I just didn’t get up and eject the disc from my player. Several scenes that play out in Bolt's Unispeak, sans subtitles, do little but alienate the viewer and Riz Ortolani’s score, which is for the most part rather forgettable, provides the film with what I believe to be the most annoying theme song etched onto celluloid. Titled “Charlie’ and performed by “The Statuettes”, the vapid and annoying theme is played repeatedly throughout the picture, each time proving a test to my pain endurance level as, at least once, I seriously considered jabbing a pencil in my ear drum. Performances are for the most part unmemorable save for maybe John Cleese who proves to be the only likable character. Fellow Python alum Graham Chapman is also on hand as a T.V. newsman but is only seen briefly. There is one scene where Niven hires two voluptuous gals to dangle precariously underneath a helicopter as a means of coaxing a painter off a mountaintop mosque that was amusing but only because it was nice to see an ample set of breasts break the otherwise unwanted and unnecessary sea of old men's backsides.
Code Red's presentation of THE STAUTE comes with a disclaimer stating that due to unsuitable elements available from the rights owner they were forced to use theatrical print for their transfer. Presented in anamorphic widescreen at a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, THE STAUTE suffers from some sporadic print damage and scratching that varies in its consistency. It’s nothing too distracting and is nowhere near the level of damage seen on Code Red's release of PETS, a Code Red title that I highly recommend despite its technical flaws. Audio is available in English Mono and sounds fine with dialogue clean and that God awful annoying theme song clear as a damn bell. Extras include the film's original trailer along side trailers for FAMILY HONOR, A LONG RIDE FROM HELL, CHANGES, RIVALS, STIGMA, DERBY, CHOKE CANYON, THE VISITOR and THE BLACK GESTAPO under its alternate title, THEY’RE THE GHETTO WARRIORS. (Jason McElreath)
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