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If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium


‘…a groaning buffet of oddballs in an amuse bouche of a movie…’

A tv staple when I was growing up, Mel Stuarts 1969 comedy takes that long title from a New Yorker cartoon. This is a romantic comedy based around the idea of whirlwind holidays, a phenomenon of the time in which US tourists would pay top dollar for a whistle-stop tour of Europe. That’s an ideal premise for a light romp, which takes in a number of real locations as a backdrop for some dated rom-com shenanigans.
It’s almost impossible to picture a young Ian McShane, given the grizzled, haunted, couch-left-out-in-the rain visage featured in Deadwood and John Wick; yet here he is a callow youth Charlie Cartwright, a tour guide who feels that he gets his fair share of girls, but like Michael Caine’s Alfie, still hopes that something will lift him out of his bachelor rut. He’s in charge of a motley crew of tourists with recognisable faces; Murray Hamilton from Jaws, Mildred Natwick from The Court Jester and The Trouble With Harry, and Three’s Company star Norman Fell. But there’s also a slew of truly bizarre cameos, including Robert Vaughn as a smarmy photographer, Keeping Up Appearances’ Patricia Routledge, US imports Ben Gazarra and John Cassavettes, plus glamour-puss internationals Anita Ekberg, Virna Lisi and Elsa Martinelli. Throw in director Vittorio de Sica, John Collins and a couple of songs by Donovan, and you’ve got a groaning buffet of oddballs in an amuse bouche of a movie.
Are you looking for actual location footage of Antwerp Cheese market before it was commercialised? London, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Italy all get shown to good advantage, and even if some of the attitudes are amusingly dated, there’s a wide-eyed and innocent attitude to the freshly minted art of global tourism that makes the result sparkle. And the film is regularly lifted by the great Aubrey Morris (A Clockwork Orange, The Wicker Man) as Harry Dix, a kleptomaniac who steal every item he lays eyes on; Morris steals every scene he’s in. This is a frivolous, silly film that harks back to a time when audiences were wowed just by seeing new places on the big screen; as we lock down in a pandemic, it’s well worth recommending to the true romantic at heart, for lovers and travellers alike.


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    • The location work is amazing, and it’s great to see so many tourist attractions before they were commercialized. Some of the gags date badly, but the overall film is one that encourages affection…

      • I am currently watching on Sony movie channel the worst horror movie ever. It’s unintentionally funny, with abysmal acting, music and with a cast that should have known better. I felt sure you would have reviewed it, it’s right up your street, but couldn’t find it in your search. It’s called Murders in the Rue Morgue. Jason Robards and Herbert Lom and someone in a gorilla suit 🤣🤣 you have to do it! Not the 1936 version though, the 1971 one.

        • I know that movie! Saw it as part of the BBC 2 horror double bills in the late 70’s. Good shout, I’ll add this to my watchlist on your recommendation, sounds like it’ll be up my street! Thanks!

  1. As soulful a McShane as in Sky West and Crooked? Can’t remember any specific couches in that one and strangely enough not much rain so no idea where he acquired that visage.

  2. you’ve got a groaning buffet of oddballs in an amuse bouche of a movie

    I learn new things by following your blog. Like “bouche” for instance. I had to go look that word up. Good thing it is Friday though, I only allow myself to learn one new thing a week.

  3. Well as I ofcourse live in the Netherlands I might be tempted to give this one a go, despite it being a romantic comedy. If only to see a young IanMcShane in action😊 Never heard of whirlwind holidays before by the way 🤔🤔 I keep saying it, you learn something new every day!😊

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