Cinema: Fausticm Fringe

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As the ancestor of all man-v.-devil stories, the Faust legend has spawned some curious offspring over the centuries. The latest, Stanley Donen's Bedazzled, could in all likelihood qualify as the worst. A meek little short-order cook (Dudley Moore) hankers inarticulately after the waitress (Eleanor Bron) in a London greasy spoon. The Devil (Peter Cook) follows him home and makes a proposition: seven wishes granted, a soul in return.

Unfortunately, none of the wishes works out quite right. In answer to one, Moore is turned into a voluble young intellectual who plies the willing Bron with Brahms; just as her defenses begin to crumble, a scratch on the record breaks the romantic mood. Moore also asks to have a perfect spiritual union with his beloved, but he fails to specify one important detail and thus ends up as a nun. Finally, his wishes spent, he throws himself on Cook's mercy; in a resolution that would have sickened Goethe and Marlowe, the Devil inexplicably turns gentleman and calls off the deal.

Actor-Writers Cook and Moore, who once were half of the wily foursome in Beyond the Fringe, have failed to grasp the basic difference between a four-minute skit and a 107-minute movie. What is worse, their script is padded with imbecile yock lines ("I love Lucifer," or in a conversation about God "But he is English isn't he?"). As a result, the film plays Faust and loose with a grand old theme.