The World of Henry Orient

Are you a Peter Sellers fan?  Or maybe an Angela Lansbury fan?  How about Peter Sellers making out with Angela Lansbury?  Or do you just like movies, or–well, whatever.  This past Saturday, I watched a film I’d never heard of: The World of Henry Orient.  I’ve put a review up over on my website.  I really enjoyed it, and I think others would, too.  If you like family films, or coming of age girl movies, or comedies, go read my review, and maybe it’ll persuade you to give this film a shot.  I mean, I’m a guy, and I still liked it–despite its coming-of-age-girl-movie genre.

Here’s the review:

This is a movie I picked up primarily because of who was listed as the star: Peter Sellers. And not just any Peter Sellers–Peter Sellers in his glory days. The film was done in 1964, the same year he was nominated for an Oscar for Dr. Strangelove and the same year he appeared in A Shot in the Dark and The Pink Panther. Plus, the director is George Roy Hill, famous for his directing two Newman/Redford films you might have heard of: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting, although he also directed one of my favorite Chevy Chase movies, Funny Farm (if you’re a writer, you owe it to yourself to watch this movie. Classic.). Add Angela Lansbury to the cast, and what are you waiting for, right?

What I got was something quite different from what I bargained for, although I was still very pleased. I think the main problem is the choice of the DVD packagers to give Sellers top billing. This is not a Peter Sellers movie; he’s very much in a supporting role. Sellers and Lansbury both give great performances, and I enjoyed Tom Boswell’s efforts, as well, but this movie isn’t about adults. It’s a girl coming-of-age movie.

You’d think that I would have hated it. After all, being a guy, you can bet I’m not in the target audience. However, everything was so well executed, I couldn’t help but be impressed. The film begins by establishing the characters of the two leads: Val (played by Tippy Walker) and Gil (played by Merrie Spaeth). They’re both about 12 or so, and they’re both new students at a girls’ school. They become quick friends, discovering they have a lot in common–particularly the fact that both of them have had trouble finding a friend. The two have a penchant for overactive imagination, which gets them into trouble numerous times. In the midst of one of their make-believe sessions, they come across Henry Orient (Sellers), making out with a married woman. Val falls in love with Henry, and the two girls decide to find out everything they can about him. Essentially, they stalk him, but without all the bad connotations that follow that word these days.

Somewhere in the middle of this playful tale, darker overtones start creeping up: divorce, family relations, fidelity, turning the movie into something more than just a fun flick. I don’t want to give away more of the plot than that, since I went into the movie knowing practically nothing about it and probably enjoyed it more because of that.

I’d really recommend this as a family film. It’s light fun–though it does get rather outlandish at times–that can be enjoyed by anyone, any age. Some great acting, and it might actually make you think a bit, too.

Three stars (out of four)

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