Car Racing Capers with Curtis
There is part of me which is confused by "Monte Carlo or Bust!" and not just because it's also known as "Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies". Nope I am confused as to why such a movie which came from the same people who gave us "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" and featuring a cast which includes Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Tony Curtis amongst other recognizable faces ended up so terrible. And yes I do mean terrible as although it has some amusing but seriously obvious scenes surrounding car racing capers it's not really got a storyline and the characters are boring stereotypes.
The Monte Carlo Rally, a gruelling race across Europe where competitors start from 5 different points and must navigate their way through hundreds of miles of dangerous roads to get to Monte Carlo before they race it out in one final contest to see who wins. Whilst the professionals plan their races, a group of dubious characters including criminals, doctors, army officers and rivals Sir Cuthbert Ware-Armitage (Terry Thomas) and brash American Chester Schofield (Tony Curtis - Operation Petticoat) are preparing to join in the car racing capers.
One of my biggest issues is that "Monte Carlo or Bust!" really struggles for a storyline despite setting up several stories surrounding a select group of competitors. What I mean is we learn of the rivalry between American Chester Schofield and Sir Cuthbert Ware-Armitage, we learn about the Italians who are entering the race, the German who is transporting stolen jewellery and so on, but they aren't the real story. The real story ends up the car race and all the problems which happen along the way and as the actual race takes up 90% of the movie it ends up not very interesting. If only the creative talents had dedicated half of the movie to building up the characters and their individual stories "Monte Carlo or Bust!" could have been a far more interesting movie, but the reliance on car racing capers ends up all a little repetitive and dull.
The knock on effect of not giving us enough back story is that the characters are weak as well, the French female doctors, I think they were French, the German convict, the Italians all end up as just background noise rather than really interesting characters. And those which are more pivotal such as Dawlish and Barrington, Armitage and Perkins and also Chester Schofield and Betty don't fare much better as although they get more screen time it's impossible to warm to such 2 dimensional characters. And adding to the issues is that they are all over the top stereotypes, the Italians are more interested in women than racing, the German only cares about being number one and the British are eccentric. It should be funny, and to start with these obvious stereotypes are but by the end of the movie they are annoying.
It's possibly because the characters are 2 dimensional that the performances from various stars fail to really work either. Tony Curtis does his best to be the over enthusiastic, loud American but when the movie focuses on the race his performance drops off. And it's the same with all the stars, Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore end up being more idiotic that funny, whilst Terry Thomas is over the top unscrupulous, it's all too repetitive.
And on top of all this it has to be said that the comedy is all too obvious. You sort of know what to expect when it comes to car racing capers, there will be crashes, tinkering about with other people's cars, falling over and so on and so on. Almost every single joke can be seen a mile off including a bed swapping scene at a hotel. There are moments which do work such as Schofield bouncing around his workshop early on in the movie but they are few and far between.
What saves "Monte Carlo or Bust!" from being completely bad is that the action is quite stunning considering its age. Cars sliding around on snow, crashing into each other and move at quite an impressive speed all looks great. Even the great set pieces, such as a car hanging off the edge of the cliff works. It's a shame the rest of the movie didn't match up to the action.
What this all boils down to is that "Monte Carlo or Bust!" is sadly a mediocre movie and disappointing because it should have been so much better. The lack of any real story, the 2 dimensional characters, obvious scenes of car racing capers and equally obvious comedy just doesn't come together. Even the cast which includes Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Tony Curtis fails to lift it to being average. But the actual action isn't bad especially the various stunt work with cars sliding around on snow.