Olive Films continues the retro-Euro vacation that begins with the May 2016 Blu-ray (BD) release of the Paris-based comedy "French Postcards" and continues with the June 21, 2016 BD releases of the (Unreal TV reviewed) 1965 comedy "I'll Take Sweden" with the topic for today. This series aptly wraps up with the 1969 comedy classic "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium."
Olive shows great instincts in pairing "Belgium" with "Postcards" and "Sweden" and in releasing it at the same time as the airing of the remake of the "Belgium" producer David L. Wolper's production of "Roots." This shot-on-gorgeous-locations film being about a group of ugly Americans on a whirlwind tour of Europe (nine countries in eighteen days) that is very reminiscent of the summer vacations of that era further validates a June release.
"Belgium" additionally belongs to a trifecta of star-studded madcap "road" movies of the '60s. The other two are "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" and "The Great Race." Further accolades are due regarding the awesome theme song and the hilarious end-credits segment.
In addition to the aforementioned strong late-60s vibe, "Belgium" is an awesome precursor to the mid-70s television classic "The Love Boat."The cast of 1,000s of past, present, and future household names includes Suzanne Pleshette of "The Bob Newhart Show," British actor Ian McShane of countless U.S. series such as "Deadwood" and "Dallas" and U.K. series such as "Lovejopy," Norman Fell of "Three's Company," Joan Collins of "Dynasty," Pamela Britton of "My Favorite Martian," etc. The award for best cameo goes to Patricia Routledge of the classic Britcom "Keeping Up Appearances" as an annoyingly chipper British tour guide.
One of the more interesting television-related aspects of "Belgium" is having Pleshette of the Mary Tyler Moore production company show "Bob Newhart" play single Minneapolis-based career gal Samantha Perkins. The motives for her trip include obtaining distance to help her decide whether to accept a marriage proposal from her long-term boyfriend.
The plot involving Perkins extends to having her enter a flirtatious relationship with the jaded tour guide/Casanova Charlie Cartwright whom McShane plays. Their highlights include her holding him to task regarding his tour guide duties, a drunken evening, and his coming to her rescue. Surprise visitors during the tour add to the fun regarding this courtship.
The humor regarding Fell character Harve Blakely begins with his wife bringing copious amounts of American toilet paper on the journey. The hilarity continues with said spouse becoming separated from the group and having trouble reconnecting with them. The occasions for "Company" fans to exclaim "Oh, Stanley" are particularly fun.
The audience also gets the man who treats the hotel rooms as sources of free souvenirs, the typical American family who drags their sullen teen daughter along, the WWII veteran who wants to revisit the sites of his literal battles, and the Italian-American who is planning a family reunion in Venice.
"Belgium" simply is an entertaining and fun film that derives humor from well-deserved American stereotypes and mid-range tour packages. The funniest thing is that this material is equally relevant nearly 50 years after the theatrical premiere of "Belgium."
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