A Fish Called Wanda

A diamond advocate is attempting to steal a collection of diamonds, yet troubles arise when he realizes that he is not the only one after the diamonds.

Credits: TheMovieDb.

Film Cast:

  • Wanda Gershwitz: Jamie Lee Curtis
  • Archie Leach: John Cleese
  • Otto: Kevin Kline
  • Ken Pile: Michael Palin
  • Wendy: Maria Aitken
  • Georges Thomason: Tom Georgeson
  • Portia: Cynthia Cleese
  • Mrs. Coady: Patricia Hayes
  • Judge: Geoffrey Palmer
  • Customer in Jeweler’s Shop: Mark Elwes
  • Manager of Jeweler’s Shop: Neville Phillips
  • Inspector Marvin: Peter Jonfield
  • Mr. Ian Johnson: Jeremy Child
  • Hutchison: Stephen Fry
  • Bartlett: Ken Campbell
  • Warder: Al Hunter Ashton
  • Locksmith: Roger Hume
  • Davidson: Roger Brierley
  • Sir John: Llewellyn Rees
  • Percival: Michael Percival
  • Magistrate: Kate Lansbury
  • Eebeedee: Andrew MacLachlan
  • Vicar: Roland MacLeod
  • Policeman at Old Bailey: Robert Putt
  • Mrs. Hazel Johnson: Pamela Miles
  • 1st Junior Barrister: Sharon Marino
  • 2nd Junior Barrister: Patrick Newman

Film Crew:

  • Casting: Priscilla John
  • Set Decoration: Stephanie McMillan
  • Producer: Michael Shamberg
  • Editor: John Jympson
  • Writer: John Cleese
  • Costume Design: Hazel Pethig
  • Story: Charles Crichton
  • Executive Producer: Steve Abbott
  • Associate Producer: John Comfort
  • Original Music Composer: John Du Prez
  • Director of Photography: Alan Hume
  • Production Design: Roger Murray-Leach
  • Makeup Supervisor: Paul Engelen
  • Sound Editor: Jonathan Bates
  • Boom Operator: Colin Wood
  • Special Effects Supervisor: George Gibbs
  • Makeup Artist: Lynda Armstrong
  • Sound Re-Recording Mixer: Gerry Humphreys
  • Production Assistant: Ralph Kamp
  • Art Direction: John Wood
  • Sound Recordist: Chris Munro
  • Third Assistant Director: David Skynner
  • Producer’s Assistant: Alexandra Stone
  • Producer’s Assistant: Peter Byck
  • Executive Producer’s Assistant: Sophie Clarke-Jervoise
  • Assistant Editor: William Webb
  • Camera Operator: Neil Binney
  • Still Photographer: David James
  • Clapper Loader: Graham Hall
  • Continuity: Diana Dill
  • Production Coordinator: Janine Modder
  • Property Master: Bruce Bigg
  • Location Manager: Nick Daubeny
  • Stunt Coordinator: Romo Gorrara
  • Hairdresser: Barry Richardson
  • Grip: Jimmy Waters
  • Production Accountant: Andy Birmingham
  • Music Editor: Peter Holt
  • Focus Puller: Simon Hume
  • Assistant Location Manager: Christopher Knowles
  • Wardrobe Assistant: Jenny Hawkins
  • Second Assistant Director: Melvin Lind
  • Location Manager: William Lang
  • Best Boy Electric: Bill Thornhill
  • Property Buyer: Brian Read
  • Wardrobe Master: Ray Usher
  • Wardrobe Assistant: Steve Cornish
  • Production Assistant: Liz Lehmans
  • Assistant Accountant: Yvonne Heeks
  • Construction Manager: Roy Evans
  • Standby Property Master: Alfie Smith
  • Gaffer: Bobby Bremner

Movie Reviews:

  • The Movie Diorama: A Fish Called Wanda swimmingly sails through a screenplay fishing for eccentricity. You may or may not already know, that comedies are not my genre of choice. The heartless individual that I am fails to grasp humour in its entirety, finding the most unusual of gags hilarious yet the most mainstream of jokes unwaveringly pointless. “Classic” British comedy, despite being a patriotic Brit myself, is just one of those strands I’ve never tangled with. ‘Monty Python’ and 80s sitcoms reassure my darkened thoughts where most others would laugh out loud, for I am dead inside.

    Naturally, approaching this classic that many deem utterly hilarious, had me both anxious and intimidated. All the signs were there indicating that I would not appreciate this. Two ‘Monty Python’ actors, in Cleese and Palin, teaming up yet again. A femme fatale central character that utilises her sex appeal to acquire anything and everything. British versus American colloquialisms. Yet, despite all these elements being fruitfully incorporated into the feature, I flippin’ loved A Fish Called Wanda! A gangster, animal lover and two American con artists plan a jewel heist, to which the eponymous Wanda attempts to double-cross them.

    Comedy, in my opinion, is most contagious when written well. The visual aspect is a product of the screenplay and performances. So when I acknowledged that Cleese himself wrote this hilarious screenplay, especially after the groundbreaking success of ‘Fawlty Towers’, I breathed a sigh of relief. The man is comedy gold, and I’ll tell you why. A Fish Called Wanda isn’t a string of random set pieces to which the characters must adapt to in order to achieve a comedic response, a formula commonly used in modern “hilarity”. Rather it’s actually the same scene repeated, but with comic illogicality emphasised with each repetition. Wanda insists on seducing George’s barrister to obtain information. Simple? Yes. Durable? No.

    Ingeniously, Cleese continues the affair throughout the entire feature, and solely focussing on the dynamics between Wanda and Archie. When does the hilarity ensue, you ask? Well, it’s the unwanted surrounding characters that heighten the situation into the comedy stratosphere. Archie unexpectedly greets his wife when Wanda is hiding behind a cupboard door, after some “necrophiliac” foreplay. Her locket is dropped (vital plot point!), wife sees it and instead of exploding in anger at the possibility of Archie’s betrayal, she believes it’s a gift and decides to wear it. This is without mentioning Wanda’s “brother” who walks into the room and pretends to be an agent investigating KGB operatives in the local area. Oh, and Archie’s daughter is waltzing in and out of the scene to make matters worse. My description doesn’t do it justice, but each time Wanda and Archie are together, the scenario constantly escalates. It really is edge of your seat comedy, and I can confidently state I was flailing my arms about like a fish out of water whilst laughing the house down.

    Situational comedies like this, when written incredibly meticulously, are able to re-ignite my soul. However, these sequences of awkward hilarity would not be possible without the detailed characterisation that seeps through the screenplay. Each character implements a unique trait and differing style of comedy into the fray. Archie and his general buffoonery. Wanda and her insistence on sex appeal. Otto with his disapproval of the word “stupid”. Ken with his on/off stutter. These are just the crust on the fish pie, for there are a ludicrous amount of personable qualities that bring these characters to life. And that is what makes the comedy feel so effortless.

    Crichton, in what was his last directorial feature, solely placed Cleese’s writing at the forefront. No ostentatious camerawork or intelligent editing. With that, it can feel somewhat rough around the edges. The constant switching between Wanda’s shenanigans and Ken’s progressive task of murdering a witness (by killing her beloved dogs instead of, y’know, her!), were abrupt and occasionally disjointed. Fortunately the rounded performances secured a narrative momentum throughout, never once depleting. Cleese, Curtis and Palin were exceptionally decent, yet it was Kline’s excessive screaming and shouting that generated comedy excellence. Yes, the homophobic slurs are now outdated and unfortunately taints a portion of his character, especially since he continually maintains this remark throughout. But I appreciate that’s a personal issue more than anything.

    The characterised comedy is what matters. These minuscule fishes in the medium-sized pond that is Britain, swimming around causing hilarity wherever they rest their fins. Bolstered by fantastic performances, an engaging story and exceptional writing, Wanda certainly is a fish I shall be remembering. Modern comedy just cannot replicate this exemplary feature.

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