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Most avid fans of Italian cinema may already be familiar with such Vittorio De Sica classics as The Bicycle Thief (1948), Miracle in Milan (1951) and The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1971). In stark contrast to those, After the Fox (1966) is an anomaly in De Sica's career - a comedy starring Peter Sellers, then at the height of his international career. Sellers plays "the Fox," a somewhat inept character reminiscent of the famous Inspector Clouseau of the Pink Panther comedies.
An incompetent thief, "the Fox" breaks out of jail to arrange for the transfer of $3 million in gold from Cairo to Rome. Hiding in various disguises (prison doctor, Italian policeman, New Wave film director, to name a few), Fox cooks up a plan to "film" a movie in which the gold is transferred in a "scene." He crosses paths with an aging star played by none other than Victor Mature, who came out of retirement to poke fun at his own screen persona.
In an odd twist of casting, Britt Ekland, the Swedish model and ingenue, plays Fox's sister, donning a brunette wig to play an Italian. Sellers was responsible for the hiring of Ekland, who was then the second Mrs. Sellers. The final swingin' '60s touch is provided by Burt Bacharach's irresistible score featuring a duet between the Hollies and Peter Sellers on the theme song.
Unfortunately, during the filming Sellers was neurotic and unpredictable. Days after production began, he tried to have De Sica removed from the picture and argued constantly with Ekland. One evening, he even threw a chair at Ekland, who took temporary refuge in the rented home of Neil Simon, who was responsible for the screenplay of After the Fox.
Simon later recalled his screenwriting debut as an experience reminiscent of a Marx Brothers comedy and has acknowledged that the film retains a "cult" following. As Simon notes in his autobiography, De Sica always began shooting late in the day and had a penchant for phoning the local casino to place bets. He and his Italian crew also entertained a host of superstitions on the set -- at one point, when a frustrated Mature threw his script into the ocean, a priest was summoned to bless the soggy sheets.
After the Fox takes its place among the unofficial genre of wacky '60s comedies (such as Candy, 1968; The Magic Christian, 1969; Skidoo, 1968) that feature an unlikely combination of director, actors and offbeat storyline. The results make for a unique, if bizarre, testament to the melting pot that was '60s culture.
Producer: John Bryan, Maurizio Lodi-Fe
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Screenplay: Neil Simon, Cesare Zavattini
Cinematography: Leonida Barboni
Editing: Russell Lloyd
Music: Burt Bacharach
Cast: Peter Sellers (Aldo Vanucci/Federico Fabrizi), Victor Mature (Tony Powell), Britt Ekland (Gina Romantica), Martin Balsam (Harry), Akim Tamiroff (Okra), Paolo Stoppa (Polio), Tino Buazzelli (Siepi), Maurice Denham (Chief of Interpol).
by Genevieve McGillicuddy