This offbeat, arty film gets away to a good start with the stellar pull of Peter Sellers and Richard Attenborough. Originally a radio play by John Mortimer, it is a bold attempt to present something different and, on the whole, it’s a fair try.
Sellers plays an aging, unsuccessful barrister who gets the chance of a lifetime when briefed to defend Attenborough, a mild birdseed merchant who has murdered his wife because he wanted peace. He is bored with her because of her raucous sense of humour. It is the last straw when she doesn’t elope with their equally raucous and boisterous lodger. Sellers plans his campaign optimistically and is quite undaunted when Attenborough admits the crime and shows the flaws in all Sellers’ defense arguments.
The screenplay is a literate job, with a deft mixture of comedy and pathos. Sellers has the opportunity of showing many moods and much of his work is good. Attenborough comes out of the acting duel rather better.