Start the Revolution Without Me


1h 30m 1970
Start the Revolution Without Me

Brief Synopsis

Two mismatched sets of identical twins mistakenly exchange identities on the eve of the French Revolution.

Film Details

Also Known As
Louie, There's a Crowd Downstairs!, Two Times Two
Genre
Comedy
War
Release Date
Jan 1970
Premiere Information
New York opening: 4 Feb 1970
Production Company
Norbud Films
Distribution Company
Warner Bros.--Seven Arts, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Synopsis

In 18th-century France a doctor confuses two sets of twins born to the Corsican Duke Di Sisi and to Coupé, a peasant; to ensure that each father will get at least one of his natural sons, he gives both men one baby from each set. By 1789 the Di Sisi brothers, Philippe and Pierre, have become notorious for their swordplay, and when King Louis XVI begins to fear that revolution is imminent, he sends a note asking for their help. The message is intercepted, however, by the Duke d'Escargot who, with Queen Marie Antoinette, is the chief conspirator against the throne; he invites the Di Sisis to join him in overthrowing the king, and they tentatively accept. Meanwhile, as the Di Sisis depart on a barge for Paris disguised as peasants, the simple-minded Coupé brothers, Claude and Charles, have joined Jacques Cabriolet's band of revolutionaries. When Cabriolet's men attack the barge, the Coupé brothers are mistaken for the Di Sisis and taken to the palace, while the Di Sisis are taken back to the revolutionaries' hideout and committed to an insane asylum when Cabriolet finds their behavior to be radically different. At the palace, the king asks the Coupés to assassinate the Duke d'Escargot to prevent him from marrying Princess Christina of Belgium and thus acquiring the power to conquer France; in addition, the unfaithful queen conspires with Claude, whom she still believes to be one of the Di Sisis, to kill d'Escargot so that they can rule France together. As the duke and a group of his men disguised as monks attempt unsuccessfully to assassinate the Coupés, the Di Sisi brothers escape from the asylum and rush to the palace, where great confusion results concerning the men's true identity. Cabriolet and his band march on the palace to depose the king, while the Coupé brothers hurriedly extract a reform proclamation from him; the reforms come too late, however, and the peasants attack the palace. At this point, narrator Orson Welles, in a 20th-century setting, attempts to complete the story by reading from a history book, but two look-alikes (descendants of Charles and Pierre) appear and shoot Welles; two more look-alikes (descendants of Claude and Philippe) appear, and one shoots both Charles/Pierre descendants. One of the Claude/Philippe descendants then shoots the other, and the survivor himself is shot by the "Man in the Iron Mask," who has finally been freed from the Tower by the insurgents.

Film Details

Also Known As
Louie, There's a Crowd Downstairs!, Two Times Two
Genre
Comedy
War
Release Date
Jan 1970
Premiere Information
New York opening: 4 Feb 1970
Production Company
Norbud Films
Distribution Company
Warner Bros.--Seven Arts, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Articles

Start the Revolution Without Me


The historical farce, Start the Revolution Without Me (1970), starring Gene Wilder fresh off The Producers (1968) and Donald Sutherland just off MASH (1970), helped set the tone for a decade of American slapstick comedies. The film was executive produced by television giant Norman Lear (The Jeffersons, Good Times, All in the Family) and produced and directed by his longtime collaborator Bud Yorkin.

The story works off of accidentally switched newborns, mistaken identity and the French Revolution. A count and a commoner both visit the same country doctor with their very pregnant wives. Two sets of identical twins later, the doctor and midwife can't remember which belonged to whom, so one of each set goes home with its birth parents. Decades later, the Corsican brothers (Wilder and Sutherland) have grown up wealthy and spoiled, and the Coupe brothers (Wilder and Sutherland) have grown up poor and goofy.

On the eve of the French Revolution, the Corsican brothers, famed for their swordsmanship, are called upon by Louis XVI to protect him from the mob, while the Coupes are part of the ragtag team staging the overthrow. When one set of twins is mistaken for the other, mayhem erupts, with plenty of palace intrigue and shifting alliances. It feels like a Mel Brooks movie, without Mel Brooks, and indeed that filmmaker would carry on the torch (first set ablaze in The Producers) through the '70s with a number of films, including Blazing Saddles (1974) and Young Frankenstein (1974), both starring Gene Wilder.

In 1968 Wilder was in talks with Mike Nichols to do Catch-22 (1970) when Norman Lear called with Start the Revolution Without Me. The film was going to be shot in Czechoslovakia, which was enjoying the political freedoms of the Prague Spring. After comparing both scripts, he went with Lear's project, feeling that Milo Minderbender, the role he'd been offered by Nichols, hadn't translated well into the Catch-22 screenplay. A few weeks later, the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia and Start the Revolution Without Me would be filmed in Paris instead.

The film is full of great character actors, including Hugh Griffith (How to Steal a Million, 1966) as Louis XVI and Billie Whitelaw (The Omen, 1976) as Marie Antoinette. Orson Welles is the film's narrator, appearing in opening and closing scenes. Though Start the Revolution Without Me took three months to film, Welles did his scenes in a day and a half. In his biography Kiss Me Like a Stranger, Wilder explains why Welles was already gone when he showed up to meet him on the second day: 'Well,' Bud said, 'we'd start a scene, and after a little while Orson would call 'Cut!' He'd look at me and say, 'Now you don't honestly want any more of that shot, do you, Bud?....And I'd say, Yes...well...I suppose so.' So we finished...an hour ago."

Warner Bros. didn't have much faith in Start the Revolution Without Me, perhaps unsure of both its comedic style and period story, and gave it a small release and little publicity. Not surprisingly, box-office receipts weren't impressive either. It wasn't until 16mm prints of the film began to circulate college campuses and an initial 1982 video release that it began to develop a cult audience.

Writers Fred Freeman and Lawrence Cohen were nominated for a WGA Award for best comedy written directly for the screen.

Producer: Norman Lear, Bud Yorkin, Edward Stephenson
Director: Bud Yorkin
Screenplay: Lawrence J. Cohen, Fred Freeman
Cinematography: Jean Tournier
Art Direction: Francoise de Lamothe
Music: John Addison
Film Editing: Ferris Webster
Cast: Gene Wilder (Claude/Philippe), Donald Sutherland (Charles/Pierre), Hugh Griffith (King Louis XVI), Jack MacGowran (Jacques), Billie Whitelaw (Queen Marie Antoinette), Victor Spinetti (Duke d'Escargot), Ewa Aulin (Christina of Beligum), Helen Fraser (Mimi Montage), Orson Welles (narrator).
C-90m.

by Emily Soares

Start The Revolution Without Me

Start the Revolution Without Me

The historical farce, Start the Revolution Without Me (1970), starring Gene Wilder fresh off The Producers (1968) and Donald Sutherland just off MASH (1970), helped set the tone for a decade of American slapstick comedies. The film was executive produced by television giant Norman Lear (The Jeffersons, Good Times, All in the Family) and produced and directed by his longtime collaborator Bud Yorkin. The story works off of accidentally switched newborns, mistaken identity and the French Revolution. A count and a commoner both visit the same country doctor with their very pregnant wives. Two sets of identical twins later, the doctor and midwife can't remember which belonged to whom, so one of each set goes home with its birth parents. Decades later, the Corsican brothers (Wilder and Sutherland) have grown up wealthy and spoiled, and the Coupe brothers (Wilder and Sutherland) have grown up poor and goofy. On the eve of the French Revolution, the Corsican brothers, famed for their swordsmanship, are called upon by Louis XVI to protect him from the mob, while the Coupes are part of the ragtag team staging the overthrow. When one set of twins is mistaken for the other, mayhem erupts, with plenty of palace intrigue and shifting alliances. It feels like a Mel Brooks movie, without Mel Brooks, and indeed that filmmaker would carry on the torch (first set ablaze in The Producers) through the '70s with a number of films, including Blazing Saddles (1974) and Young Frankenstein (1974), both starring Gene Wilder. In 1968 Wilder was in talks with Mike Nichols to do Catch-22 (1970) when Norman Lear called with Start the Revolution Without Me. The film was going to be shot in Czechoslovakia, which was enjoying the political freedoms of the Prague Spring. After comparing both scripts, he went with Lear's project, feeling that Milo Minderbender, the role he'd been offered by Nichols, hadn't translated well into the Catch-22 screenplay. A few weeks later, the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia and Start the Revolution Without Me would be filmed in Paris instead. The film is full of great character actors, including Hugh Griffith (How to Steal a Million, 1966) as Louis XVI and Billie Whitelaw (The Omen, 1976) as Marie Antoinette. Orson Welles is the film's narrator, appearing in opening and closing scenes. Though Start the Revolution Without Me took three months to film, Welles did his scenes in a day and a half. In his biography Kiss Me Like a Stranger, Wilder explains why Welles was already gone when he showed up to meet him on the second day: 'Well,' Bud said, 'we'd start a scene, and after a little while Orson would call 'Cut!' He'd look at me and say, 'Now you don't honestly want any more of that shot, do you, Bud?....And I'd say, Yes...well...I suppose so.' So we finished...an hour ago." Warner Bros. didn't have much faith in Start the Revolution Without Me, perhaps unsure of both its comedic style and period story, and gave it a small release and little publicity. Not surprisingly, box-office receipts weren't impressive either. It wasn't until 16mm prints of the film began to circulate college campuses and an initial 1982 video release that it began to develop a cult audience. Writers Fred Freeman and Lawrence Cohen were nominated for a WGA Award for best comedy written directly for the screen. Producer: Norman Lear, Bud Yorkin, Edward Stephenson Director: Bud Yorkin Screenplay: Lawrence J. Cohen, Fred Freeman Cinematography: Jean Tournier Art Direction: Francoise de Lamothe Music: John Addison Film Editing: Ferris Webster Cast: Gene Wilder (Claude/Philippe), Donald Sutherland (Charles/Pierre), Hugh Griffith (King Louis XVI), Jack MacGowran (Jacques), Billie Whitelaw (Queen Marie Antoinette), Victor Spinetti (Duke d'Escargot), Ewa Aulin (Christina of Beligum), Helen Fraser (Mimi Montage), Orson Welles (narrator). C-90m. by Emily Soares

Quotes

I warn you gentlemen, I am not to be trifled with. To pull the tail of a lion is to open the mouth of trouble and reveal the teeth of revenge biting the tongue of deceit.
- Duke d'Escargot
What brings you to Paris?
- Duke d'Escargot
Oh, you might say a little business...
- Philippe
...and a little pleasure.
- Pierre
Which do you prefer? Business, or pleasure?
- Duke d'Escargot
Well that depends on what you regard as business.
- Pierre
I'm sorry Philippe, I try my best to please you.
- Helene de Sisis
How? You can't hunt, you can't ride, you can't shoot, you can't fence! What kind of a marriage is this?
- Philippe de Sisis
Do you know who I am?
- Duke de Sisis
Oh yes. The Duke de Sisis, the scrounge of Corsica.
- Andre Coupe
The scourge of Corsica, you ignorant peasant!
- Duke De Sisis

Trivia

Notes

Location scenes filmed in France around the Château de Rochefort and the Cathedral of Notre Dame. The working title of this film is Two Times Two. Prerelease title: Louie, There's a Crowd Downstairs!

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States February 1970

Released in United States on Video July 18, 1990

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1970

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1970

Released in United States February 1970

Released in United States on Video July 18, 1990