After the Fox (1966)

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In this Vittoria De Sica comedy, criminal mastermind Aldo “The Fox” Vanucci (Peter Sellers) escapes from prison and takes part in a record-setting gold smuggling operation. He whips up a scheme to pull off his part of the caper in plain sight, and with the unwitting help of an entire Italian village, by pretending he’s making a movie about a gold heist. Inspired by his sister Gina’s (Britt Ekland) dreams of being a movie star, and after witnessing the mass hysteria over, and police protection of, Hollywood star Tony Powell (Victor Mature), Vanucci poses as the director of neo-realist (“that means no money”) pictures named Federico Fabrizi, and hires Tony to star in his movie, The Gold of Cairo.

As Tony’s agent (Martin Balsam) warns him, there’s no script, no plot, nobody knows who Fabrizi is, and the whole project smells. But Tony is an aging, vain, insecure “internationally handsome” actor in denial and lots of hair dye, who balks at playing the father roles he’s being offered in Hollywood. He’s easy pickings for Vanucci’s phony flattery and beams, with that dazzling Mature smile, at the idea of perpetuating his studly, romantic, trench-coated image opposite the hottest new Italian starlet, Gina Romantica (actually Gina Vanucci).

This movie is a showcase for Sellers’ comedy genius, but Mature steals it with his amiable, preening-peacock, dense-beefcake performance, a role he came out of retirement for. He craves, and pesters people for, compliments on his youthful looks, excellent teeth, and steely washboard abs. Fabrizi, stalling for time until the gold shipment arrives, improvises some ridiculously arty, endless scenes where Tony must dramatically stare, run, shun, hesitate and embrace Gina. Fabrizi gives Tony ridiculously vague, cliched direction like, act nothing to convey lack of communication, run as if outrunning yourself, etc. Mature is totally game and hilarious as he takes Tony from baffled to eureka moment, calling the directions brilliant and obediently, fully committing to acting them out (even jogging clear around the village for that last one). During the climactic chase when Tony’s car is stranded on train tracks, he wails about being too young to die (great cap to all the gags about his youth obsession) and once the danger passes, is quick to flash that grin and point out how brave he was.

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This screenplay, Neil Simon’s first, comments on egos, charlatans, false fronts and selling out needed for crime or movie-making. Vanucci, a born con-man with a fabulous repertoire of accents, uniforms and disguises for his scams, needn’t change a thing to join in the make-believe of the silver screen. He escapes prison twice by impersonating a doctor, finally losing himself in the disguise. Acting is considered by some as disrespectful as prostitution, but do they ever flock to the shoots and brag about having a relative in the business. Vanucci steals De Sica’s equipment (the director makes a fun cameo) under cover of a sandstorm scene in his latest desert epic. His Egyptian “connection,” Okra (Akim Tamiroff) has a bombshell accomplice (Maria Grazia Buccella) he uses like a ventriloquist’s dummy to avoid being seen chatting with fellow crooks; it’s a jarring sight and another fun take on performance, illusion and deception, when this siren speaks with Tamiroff’s raspy voice.

When a messy cut of Fabrizi’s “film” is shown in court as evidence that his shoot was a sham, it ironically captures several truths: Tony’s over the hill, Gina’s not much of a thespian, the villagers and police were eager to ignore all the warning signs for their brush with celebrity and moment in the spotlight. Leave it to the film critic in the courtroom to proclaim the film a masterwork of a primitive genius.

This zany movie-within-a-movie is part of The Classic Movie Blog Association’s fall blogathon, Hollywood on Hollywood. Please click here to read much more! 

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30 thoughts on “After the Fox (1966)”

  1. Crime and movie-making, equal on the scales of life, eh? Fun stuff. The only time I saw this film I was simply too lazy to get off the couch. What the heck is this? It certainly won me over. Flip back about 25 years to a favourite Mature flick of mine, “Footlight Serenade”, and there you will find almost the younger Tony Powell in the form of an egotistical, yet amiable boxer making a try for legitimate show business. Another telling and enjoyable performance.

    1. An extreme case, to me only some movies are so bad it qualifies as criminal :). Fun look at the sellouts and wanna-bes. Love Mature, and in this he proves again he was a lot better than he gave himself credit for!

  2. Wow, this sounds like a good one — you had me at Victor Mature and Peter Sellers! I have never even heard of this film, but I will put it on my list for sure. (Maybe they’ll show it at TCMFF!)

  3. Sellars was the best. I haven’t been a fan of Mature, but it sounds like I could be won over by watching this film. I’m looking forward to finding it.

  4. I saw this when it first came out and really need to watch it again after reading your post. Sellers was a crazy genius! Thanks!

  5. Victor Mature came out of retirement to do this film? That makes me respect him even more. (I love the phrase “internationally handsome” in reference to him.)

    What a brilliant premise! Can’t believe I haven’t seen this! I know I’ll love this film when I track it down. And thanks for an equally enjoyable review. 🙂

    1. “Tony” would love being described as internationally handsome too! It’s a hoot, hope you get to catch it sometime! Thanks!

  6. I was so happy to see this film on the list. It is a hoot. Anything with Sellers has me sold, but you are right- Mature is a delight – and so good to see him having a ball. Loved your post!

    1. Mature was clearly so into it, and that totally made this movie, such fun to see him poking fun at himself and Hollywood. Thank you!

  7. This has long been one of my faves of Sellers lesser known titles and Mature is hilarious in his role as Tony. Kudos to Vic for taking it on at this point in his career which was pretty much over by this time. You just have to love that director’s cut shown in court. My Dad and I used to laugh ourselves silly watching this years ago on City TV where it played regularly.

    1. It’s so fun, and who would think Mature could steal the show from Sellers but it happened, that was a joy to watch, he just threw himself into it 100% like Tony working for Fabrizi ha.

  8. This sounds like a lot of fun! I’ve come across the title before, but for some reason I was under the impression that it was either a war movie or some kind of political thriller. Thanks for clearing up that misconception. 🙂

    1. Many good jabs at moviemaking. I read that De Sica wasn’t totally happy with the result, but it’s a lot of fun, and at the very least I think it might turn more than a few Victor Mature newbies on to him which is a neat plus.

  9. I saw the poster for this a few weeks back and it instantly piqued my interest, and your review only makes me want to see it more. A goofy Sellers comedy with Victor Mature in on the joke that makes fun of Italian neo-realism? I’m there.

    1. Yeah Mature is fabulous, I mean if he can steal a comedy from Sellers that tells you everything. Zany take on how badly people want/NEED fame and those are always fun. Cheers

  10. I’m thoroughly interested in this film, I’ve never heard of it before. I was already sold on an over the top Victor Mature, let alone the addition of Sellers and Neil Simon. Thanks for shining a light on what sounds like a great watch!

  11. Hey Kristina,
    Thanks for giving this one some attention. “After The Fox” is an absolute favorite of mine. Works on so many levels. A madcap heist comedy that De Sica injected with much pathos, especially when the actors finally see themselves in the rough cut. It comments on 1960’s pop culture/celebrity adoration as “The Mouse That Roared” commented on world politics, with a smile and a jab in the ribs.

    I also love the wonderful cartoon sequence in the opening credits, punctuated by a Bacharach/David theme song rendered by The Hollies with Peter Sellers.

    AND… let’s not forget a classic Frank Frazetta “chase” poster to plug it!

    1. I can see why you like it so much, it was so funny, and I’m glad I randomly picked it to watch for this. Loved the opening credits too, and it’s been a long time since I saw THE MOUSE THAT ROARED, another good time. Thanks!

  12. I’ve never seen this one. Can’t believe I missed Neil Simon’s first screenplay! Love that man and this has amazing cast. OK. On my list. Thanks for the intro and the enjoyable read.

    Aurora

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