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MGM Studios DVD presents

The Mouse on the Moon (1962)

"It's dishonest, it's indecent, it's taking money under false pretenses. How much yougonna ask for?"- David Benter (Roddy McMillan)

Stars: Margaret Rutherford, Ron Moody
Other Stars: Bernard Cribbins, David Kossoff, Terry-Thomas, Julie Ritchie
Director: Richard Lester

Manufacturer: Laser Pacific
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language)
Run Time: 01h:25m:03s
Release Date: 2000-12-19
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A-B-B D+


DVD Review

I approached this film fully prepared to thoroughly dislike it. After all, it was a sequel to a hit film, The Mouse that Roared, starring the great Peter Sellers, without Sellers' talents, and the original film wasn't all that funny to begin with. Imagine my surprise to discover that this sequel was quite hilarious indeed, full of impeccable comic timing and comedy that hasn't aged too badly as long as one knows about the early space race (a viewing of the first few episodes of HBO's From the Earth to the Moon before this might be in order for younger viewers).

Part of the success of this film is no doubt due to the fact that it is an early film by the equally great Richard Lester, who went on to A Hard Days Night and Help!; without the humor being tied to a single actor's performance as was the case in the earlier film, Lester is able to make the picture his own, to its benefit. The Duchy of Grand Fenwick is the smallest and least progressive nation in Europe, measuring a scant five by three and seven-eighths miles. Ruled by the thoroughly besotted Grand Duchess Gloriana XIII (Margaret Rutherford, best known for her portrayals of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple at about the same time as this film) and the equally slimy prime minister Count Rupert of Mountjoy (a delicious Ron Moody), Grand Fenwick's primary export, wine, has recently acquired an unfortunate tendency to explode when decanted. The nation's economy thus imperiled, Mountjoy arrives at the scheme of requesting a loan from America with the stated intent of putting a man on the moon, but in fact to place indoor plumbing into the royal castle.

Since the United States feels that there is no threat in encouraging Grand Fenwick's space program, a grant of a million dollars is forthcoming. This prompts the USSR to donate a surplus rocket shell to the Duchy as well. What neither side (as well as Mountjoy) counts on is the presence of Prof. Kokintz (David Kossoff, the only actor reprising his role from the original film), who despite his obsession with bobolinks, finds a way to actually make the rocket fly to the moon. Terry-Thomas has a small but amusing role as the inept British secret agent sent by MI5 to try to find out what's really going on in Grand Fenwick.

As can be gathered from the synopsis, the humor is heavily dependent on character, which is carried off quite nicely by the talented cast. This also helps the film age a little better than its Cold War satire would have done by itself. There is a fair amount of the latter, with amusing shots of both the US NASA secretary and his Soviet counterpart going through exactly the same motions in different languages. The frankly pathetic state of Britain in the space race is poked at not so gently in the presentation of a British newscast of the moon launch which makes great hay out of the fact that one of the astronauts is wearing a British-made wristwatch! One had to feel some pride about something, I suppose. There is enough slapstick, visual and verbal humor to hold the interest of youngsters and adults, though the political background will require some explanation for children.

In all, however, I found myself laughing at this film more than I have at most other comedies I've reviewed recently. The discussion of indoor plumbing ("It's not sanitary!") which is interrupted by the Gloriana's speculation that it is a matter best considered by the privy council endlessly cracks me up. Deft little touches such as the NASA administrator's rocket ship cigarette lighter and the comic collapse of several of the horse guard during inspection make this a film that can be enjoyed over and over.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

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 One Two
Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen 1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyes no
Anamorphicno no

Image Transfer Review: MGM provides a nonanamorphic widescreen transfer that has both pluses and minuses. While the picture has excellent blacks and very good colors (though occasionally unstable), there are a fair amount of speckles throughout. The stock footage is, through the higher resolution of DVD, exposed as horrifically grainy and unstable. The fullscreen side is a Pan & Scan version which loses significant amounts of information at the sides while adding slightly more material at the bottom of the screen. Overall, the film looks very good for its age; the rich reds, purples, blues and yellows look fabulous.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, French, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The mono sound is decent, with a good range and practically no hiss or noise. Dialogue is clear at all times, although at times there is clear looping going on. The brainless and inoffensive Europop score is appropriately a little bit tinny. Not spectacular, but it gets the job done.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Alpha
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Well, not much. A slightly damaged trailer is included, as are French and Spanish subtitles. When, oh, when, will MGM reinstate English subtitling???? Chaptering is thorough, but that's about it. Makes one miss the days of the collectible booklet from MGM.

Extras Grade: D+

Final Comments

A highly enjoyable comedy, though it may require explanation for younger viewers, presented in a barebones edition, from an unfortunately iffy source print. Recommended nonetheless.

Mark Zimmer 2000-12-15