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The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer 1970
Description: Fresh-faced young Michael Rimmer worms his method into an opinion poll company and is later running the place. He uses this as a springboard to receive into politics and in the mini-skirted flared-trousered globe of 1970 Britain begins to rise through the Tory ranks.
Released: 23 Jul 1971 Director: Kevin Billington Writers: Peter Cook (screenplay), John Cleese (screenplay), Graham Chapman (screenplay), Kevin Billington (screenplay) Actors: Ann Beach, Desmond Walter-Ellis, Peter Cook, Arthur Lowe Genres: Comedy
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The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer Reviews:

A mysterious, charismatic figure (possibly other incarnation of Cook's George Spiggot Devil hero from 'Bedazzled') appears from nowhere and takes over a tiny advertising agency. Through a series of ruthless tactics (media manipulation, political chicanery, blackmail, bribery and murder) he attains large public notoriety and rises to the heights of government and beyond.With its nice cast of contemporaneous British comedy actors and a script by Peter Cook, John Cleese and Graham Chapman, the movie could have been a satirical classic. The fact that it isn't, and indeed has virtually disappeared, is mainly due to the very brilliance of its creators. The sketch-show dynamic and satiric insight with which they dominated tv comedy and theatre revue does not translates well to the cinema. Here it appears as an unfocused and fragmented ramble.Rather than make a set of rounded characters which might withstand big-screen scrutiny, Cook and company resort to what they know greatest - caricatures. Accurate caricatures though they are, these are not 'people' but conduits and Aunt Sallys for the film-maker's understandable exasperation.Peter Cook never looked so urbane and strikingly handsome as Michael Rimmer: a charming manipulator whose each utterance is a covert announcement of his smoothly diabolical strategy. Cook plays the role like a type of malevolent mannequin. Grinning and mechanical. It was a deliberate transport on his part and quite brave. But the viewer later craves for him to break cover, present a crack in the veneer, display some vulnerability to connect with. It never happens. Rimmer is no Richard III. Maybe that's the method Cook regarded such power-players: passionless shells of boys with nothing but their ambition to drive them. Unfortunately, the movie itself takes on these very aspects and becomes heartless and mechanical.The script is also not quite funny enough. The intimidation of writing for the large screen seems to have severely compromised the talents of the writers. Many of the jokes are forced and frequently fall back on tits-and-arse sight-gags - an unhappy irony as the movie is highly critical of the test of sex by advertisers to sell useless products. A severe situation of "having your cake and eating it".A lot of the minor users ham it up to grab laughs in that peculiarly loud, desperate, English rep-company manner. However, it is a truly unbelievable thing to behold Peter Cook, Denholm Elliot and the nice Harold Pinter (as a fantastically smarmy TV talk-show host) appearing in the same frame trying to out-smarm every other. It's a three method draw. Brilliant.Yes, there are some nice things. Kevin Billington has a great eye for composition, but, perhaps understandably, he can't do a thing with the fractured narrative. Alex Thompson's camera-work is perfect and imparts a sense of true cinema. The film's insight into the cynical manipulation of the media by politicians seems even more prescient today. But ultimately, it all fails to gel.Perhaps it came too late in the cycle of British satirical comedy to really receive everyone's blood moving. Cleese and Chapman moved on rapidly to the ground-breaking surrealism of Monty Python, and David Frost, the film's co-producer, dived headlong into a lucrative career as a talk-show host and professional jet-setter. But Cook's hopes for becoming a major film star were destroyed by the film's failure. Apart from sporadic periods of greatness (re-uniting with Dudley Moore etc), he basically drank himself to death over the next twenty-five years. A sad conclusion to a nice comedian's life.The movie is worth seeing if for no another reason than to witness a snapshot of British comedy before it flew into a very various orbit.


I was lucky enough to discuss this movie with David Frost in 2005 and it is a movie he is still (he was the producer) very proud of, citing it as one of Peter Cook's greatest works. The movie was given a very limited release in 1970. I saw it in the Cosmo Cinema in Glasgow in 1970 and fell off my seat laughing - the first time I have ever done that in a cinema - and I was not the only one. The Cosmo by the method (now the Glasgow Movie Theatre) was a specialist cinema which attracted intellectuals and serious movie students, so they clearly saw the importance of this movie from the word go and it is such a shame that Warner Brothers are unable to do the same and recognise this as an necessary historical movie document.The movie disappeared and has only been shown on TV 3 times - originally shown on ITV in 1979 by different channels who usually used it to pad out their late night schedules - and the ver I taped then runs about 8 mins short. It has also been shown on Channel 5 twice and they have made less cuts, but there is still some material missing which is why it needs to be issued on DVD with care and by someone who knows the movie well and understands its importance to fanatics of John Cleese, Peter Cook, Monty Python - and 60s British comedy. Other perspective is that Michael Rimmer is essentially Tony Blair, so this movie predicts presidential style UK politics and spin and contrasts it with old fashioned Labour thud and blunder with Harold Wilson lookalike George A Cooper in his greatest ever role.This could be compulsory viewing for all political students and if you liked the "Yes Minister" TV series, possibilities are you will very much play this.Post Mortem Since I wrote the initial comment above, the DVD has been released finished with director commentary - and I still search this an incredibly funny movie all these years later.


Saw this wondrous movie when it first came out in London. I was at college and loved it immediately. It appealed to me cause it confirmed many prejudices and worries about Brit politics: manipulation, polls, spin.It was method ahead of its time. Both funny and serious. The fact that it has not been accessible suggests that some of its points are too close to the truth for the 'establishment.'I would love to see the stage again when the capsule is hidden in the hankie. He is meant to smash it which will cause a tear. It doesn't quite go as intended. A brilliant film.



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