The Film Movement Classics division of arthouse legend Film Movement fully goes above-and-beyond as to the Blu-ray restoration of the lost 1961 Peter Sellers comedy "Mr. Topaze" (a.k.a. "I Like Money"). This flawless upgrade of the 35mm prints in the BFI National Archive allows current fans of social-commentary laden offbeat comedy to watch the successful directorial debut of Sellers. This tribute to a great follows the (reviewed) Classics BD release of Alastair Sims films.
One spoiler is that the titular soft-spoken and quirky French school teacher (Sellers) is an early version of the Sellers character Chance the Gardener (a.k.a. Chauncey Gardener) in the MUST-SEE Sellers comedy "Being There."
The aptly quirky Movement trailer for "Topaze" validates that this is a film that only Sellers could make in front of and behind the camera.
We meet Topaze as a teacher of French descent at a small French school in a small French town; the opening scenes depict him leading his students through the street ala a mother duck. This concludes with a charming verbal quiz as to their field-trip destination.
The plot thickens on Topaze clumsily pursing the pretty young teacher, who is the daughter of the tyrannical headmaster, across the hall. This coincides with Topaze failing to convince musical-comedy star Suzy (Nadia Gray) to have her nephew enroll in the school. The final coffin nail is hammered in a hilarious scene in which Topaze shows that resistance is not futile as to his failure to bend to severe pressure to change the grade of a student even in a manner that allows the pretense that the upgrade is justified.
Meanwhile, Suzy and lover/corrupt council member (Herbert Lom of the "Pink Panther" franchise) Castel Benac find that the dupe on whom they are relying to allow Benac to secretly profit as to a government contract is not so stupid; suffice it to say that this guy knows the score and wants more than his share of the profits.
The writing on the wall is neon as to the pair of schemers discussing the need for a front who does not know his back from his elbow. This leads to the newly unemployed Topaze becoming the figurehead president of the company of Benac. The subsequent lesson as to the wisdom of the fool has some parallels with "There." The bigger picture this time is that "Topaze" is the first of many occasions on which Lom greatly suffers at the hands of Sellers.
The epilogue provides the best payoff as it becomes clear that the older and wiser Topaze clearly is the smartest guy in the room; this is not to mention the lesson that the loss of innocence can turn a puppy into a wolf of Wall Street.
The plethora of extras begin with a crisp-and-clear version of the 33-minute Sellers short "Let's Go Crazy" with "Goon Show" co-star Spike Milligan. Sellers plays numerous characters ranging from Groucho Marx to a elderly society matron in this zany film that is fully set at a night club. The highlights include musical performances by some of the top acts of the day.
"The Poetry of Realism" is a video essay on Marcel Pagnol, who is the playwright of "Topaze." A 24-page booklet has essays on Sellers and on the rediscovery of the "Topaze" prints at the BFI.