Comedy based on a play by John Mortimer who later created Rumpole Of The Bailey. Peter Sellers is the barrister and Richard Attenborough is the meek and mild client who is accused of murdering his wife. Attenborough was nominated for a BAFTA Best Actor award. The winner was Peter O’Toole for “Lawrence Of Arabia.”
Wilfred Morganhall’s (Peter Sellers) legal career consisted of doing crossword puzzles while waiting for a client. After forty years he finally lands Hubert Fowle (Richard Attenborough). He’s guilty.
There are several portions of the movie where the two travel to different time periods and observe Morganhall’s early days and the home life of Fowle.
Fowle’s wife Doris (Beryl Reid) can’t stop laughing. When she’s not telling jokes, one liners, puns etc., she’s listening to them on the radio and laughing along. Fowle just wants peace and quiet so he can raise his birds. Doris can’t stand that he’s always so miserable.
Fowle advertises for a lodger with a sense of humor. Frank Bateson (David Lodge) shows up. He’s the male version of Doris. The two can’t stop laughing, dancing and listening to loud music. Fowle is hoping that Doris and Frank will have an affair and she’ll leave. He thinks they’re just about there. One night he comes home and finds out Doris kicked Frank out for getting too familiar with her. Fowle loses it when Doris starts laughing in his face.
In Fowle’s cell he and Morganhall pretend there’s a courtroom next door. In one fantasy Fowle is a tough judge and Morganhall is a brilliant barrister. Morganhall decides the best tactic is “The Surprise Witness.” In the next fantasy Fowle is the surprise. He makes up a name and testifies in Fowle’s behalf. Back in the cell Morganhall remembers some advice an experienced barrister gave him. That doesn’t work. He comes up with what he thinks is going to be the convincing summation to the judge and jury.
Now it’s time for the trial.
If you’re looking for a comedy that is funny without hitting you over the head then this is it. Sellers and Attenborough are just great together.