A Fish Called Wanda

Starring John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis,Kevin Kline and Michael Palin
Written by John Cleese and Charles Crichton
Directed by Charles Crichton
Running time 109 minutes
UK/US 1988

Our last film was The Sweet Smell Of Success was directed by Ealing alumni Alexander Mackendrick and co-starred Tony Curtis.

Tonight’s movie - the classic modern British comedy A Fish Called Wanda - is linked to it in not one but two ways. It stars Curtis’ daughterJamie Lee and was directed by another great Ealing man - Charles Crichton. Crichton’s credits included such solid gold hits as The Titfield Thunderbolt and The Lavender Hill Mob.  This was his final film - he was 78 years old when he made it - having been brought out of retirement by John Cleese. Like The Lavender Hill Mob it is about the aftermath of a heist but the incompetent gang in A Fish Called Wanda are attempting to find the diamonds hidden by their boss before he went to prison.

Cleese is excellent as Archie Leach - a barrister who gets caught up in the plot, while Kevin Kline and Michael Palin make a hilarious double act as Otto a Brit-hating hit man and the animal-loving jewel thief Ken. Jamie Lee Curtis proved herself to have sublime comic timing as the smart, sexy Wanda and the script by Cleese and Crichton is full of snap and crackle - packed with sharp observations on cultural difference. Only Michael Palin’s ‘comic’ stammer seems misjudged thirty years on...

A Fish Called Wanda combines the best of Fawlty Towers with impeccable Ealing craftsmanship - the cast were reunited in a 1997 sequel - Fierce Creatures - which sadly failed to come even close to the brilliance of the original.

For those interested in trivia - Cleese’s character in the film 'Archie Leach', is the original name of Hollywood legend Cary Grant.