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Tonight's the Night

One of the masters of eccentric British comedy in the '50s was an Italian, Mario Zampi, who kept the action moving deftly in this 1954 comedy about the clash between Irish locals and the new laird of the manor (David Niven). Zampi's comedies usually veer into dark comedy, as in Your Past Is Showing (1957), about the attempts to get rid of a blackmailer, or Too Many Crooks (1959), in which a kidnapped woman turns her captors into a crackerjack criminal band to get back at her faithless husband. This time out, the locals, led by Barry Fitzgerald, decide the only way to protect their way of life is to bump off the heir apparent. At first they draw lots to choose their assassin, but when the village idiot (George Cole) wins the draw - and promptly faints - each villager concocts his or her own scheme, leading to a madcap comedy of murder. The role of the unscrupulous heir provided a rare cynical turn for romantic lead Niven. Zamip even gave him an equally venal , if luscious, leadinglady in the form of Yvonne De Carlo, as a new widow out to make him her next husband. Her beauty and the Irish countryside provide a perfect showcase for the film's Technicolor cinematography.

By Frank Miller

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