Friday, February 28, 2020

This is Really "Something!"

God, how long did I wait to see this movie...? I became aware of its existence back in the late-1980s and wanted to see it even then, but never could. True enough, it was once released on VHS back in the day, but it never crossed my path. And it even made its way quietly to DVD in 2016 without my realizing it. But finally I found a place to watch it and did. (And by all that's holy, this movie should NEVER be viewed in a pan 'n scan format like VHS was!) This is most likely a record number of photos for a post at Poseidon's Underworld, but somehow I just couldn't help myself. The movie has such visual appeal. If you love watching the panoramic opening credits of The Sound of Music (1965) and that type of scenery, you ought to love watching today's featured film, Something for Everyone (1970.)

The movie directing debut of Harold "Hal" Prince, who was a major figure of the Broadway stage (with 21 individual Tony Awards, no one else was as heavily honored), this is a very dark comedy set against the stunning, sunny backdrop of a beautiful Bavaria. For his leading lady, Prince chose Miss Angela Lansbury, who he would later work with to great success in The Great White Way's "Sweeney Todd." Absent from the cinema screen for four years, this was Lansbury's first movie after enjoying the stage smash "Mame" (and enduring a couple of unsuccessful plays afterwards.) She'd relocated to England, so the commute to Bavaria wasn't a lengthy one.

Our story begins with an overview of a rural area with farmspeople toiling in a garden. Already, the lush green and earthy brown surroundings are being invaded by a figure in red, bicycling into their domain.

The figure turns out to be one Michael York, a lean, blonde young man seemingly out for a cross-country ride, but in fact a man on a mission. The castle in the upper-right corner of this shot plays a significant part in his plans.

As he's lunching in a field, a local priest comes by attempting to catch a butterfly for his collection.
Waving his net around furiously in his quest, he finds instead that the butterfly lands on the back of York's hand, allowing him to grasp it and hand it over to the grateful priest. It's far from the last time that York will be able to easily win over the trust of another living thing.

While lazing in the sun near the spectacular castle (which is in reality Neusch- wanstein Castle, built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria and used in several movies), we find that he's harbored a lifelong dream of living in a fairy tale place such as that. His favorite childhood storybook revolves around a similar building. Next, he's off to the local village (in which York is shown riding around plenty. He must have gotten some good exercise during this shoot!)
At a popular local biergarten (with a jolly oompah-pah duo in residence), he befriends a pleasant stein-slinger who seems to know all about anything and everyone. She inadvertently directs him to a footman who works for the owner of the castle.
He wears schorten-schortens...
The man, who possesses two imposing dogs that York is quick to befriend, has just gotten a large splinter in his hand. York uses a sharp pocketknife to extract it efficiently. Meanwhile, York learns more about the castle's owner, a countess who can barely make ends meet and who lives in a large lodge (a dower house) beneath it.

The grateful footman - who complains of overwork and underpay - tells York he will introduce the young man to the countess in hopes of obtaining employment with her. They depart the biergarten and head back towards the estate, the dogs bolting ahead as they cross a field.
The way back to the dower house from the village is the same route as a local train route, forcing York to have to walk his bike across the countless railroad ties. This moment has foreshadowing, however, of things to come.

Now we get to meet the countess and her menagerie of servants and family. Against the stunning vista of water and mountains, the widow is enjoying her afternoon coffee, asking her lady in waiting to retrieve more as her handsome son lingers nearby.

Of course, the countess is Lansbury, reclining in the shade of an umbrella and leafing through Vogue as though she hadn't a care in the world. She scarcely bothers to take notice of York. Her swimsuit-clad son Anthony Corlan certainly takes notice of him, however.
Go on... take a "peak!"
Corlan (later better known as Anthony Higgins) is Lansbury's eldest child and heir (though to what remains to be seen as the family has hit hard times.)

There is also a daughter, plump, precocious Jane Carr, who seems always to be eating or lollygagging around observing everything.

Lansbury's late husband the count has been gone for eleven years, but she still thinks of him constantly and bemoans the way things have fallen apart since his departure from this earth.
York asks permission to work for Lansbury, but she asks for his references. Naturally, he has none, but tries to offer a story about how all his paperwork was stolen from him as he slept the night before. Her commandeering majordomo Wolfried Lier is having none of it, however, and soon the young man is shown his way out.

He doesn't get far before Carr catches up with him and explains that her mother suffers from occasional delusions of grandueur that things aren't as as dire as they they truly are. She also confesses to having overheard the death rattle of her own father as she eavesdropped.

Ever forward, she finally asks York outright if he is either a murderer or a parasite, to which he smilingly replies, "Both" to her amusement. Next he's off to the village again, to clean up and change clothes.
That is, if one can get clean from a whore's bath in a grimy, run-down biergarten washroom! While I like York all right, he has never been my "type" physically. I can recall even at the tender age of seven being repelled by his incredibly thin chest in The Four Musketeers (1974), but perhaps that is due to the fact that all I really knew was my father's German beer-barrel sort of torso (which I inherited!)

Tellingly, York continues to see to his clothing and hair just the way he wants even as someone pounds violently on the door because they want to come in and use the bathroom.  When he's good and ready, he finally opens the door to find a father with a put-upon son whose eyes are turning yellow! LOL

York had duded himself out this way in order to attend the opera. He charms the ticket lady into giving him a reduced price in order to watch the last half of "Tristan and Isolde," as performed by two corpulent and hilariously made up and overly emotive opera singers.

During the perfor- mance, he uses some pilfered opera glasses to scan the crowd for the next perfect piece of his puzzle. He lands on the dazzlingly lovely Heidelinde Weis, in attendance within a box seat alongside her parents. He stares her down until she senses it and locates him inside the auditorium. Meanwhile, the on-stage lovers collide in a violent embrace.
Afterwards, he's already waiting outside her entryway to exchange furtive glances with her. He lurks around as the family is departing with their chauffeur and discovers where they are staying. Then he hightails it to their hotel in order to be on site when they arrive.

Once they've gone inside, he accosts the driver under the pretense of admiring the vehicle, but he actually has something else in mind. Before the old goat can help it, he's had the door slammed onto his left arm!

The next morning, Weis and her nouveau riche parents emerge to discover that their regular driver has "hurt his hand" and York has been enlisted to take his place! Almost everything Weis wears in the film is as cute and pert as can be while her mother (Eva Maria Meineke) is meant to look gauche and tacky. But you know what? I LOVE this get-up she has on...!!

York drives the family all over the place in their convertible with the father taking home movies and snapshots of everything. They land on a gorgeous bank by the water for a picnic lunch. Note the amount of fruit bursting from the basket here.
Just a light afternoon repast...
They're having as luxurious a lunch as conceivable with Meineke gobbling down lobster, her own pink-painted talons not unlike the legs of the sea creature she's chewing on. While refilling her mother's champagne, Weis notes York seated in the car, alone and without food. She goes to make him a plate and is chastised by her mother for putting caviar on his plate... so she defiantly loads it up!
Take a look at the pile of caviar Weis has laden York's plate with. She clearly wants to see to his needs.
He wouldn't mind seeing to some of hers either. With the vehicle blocking her parents' view, York works his hands all over the lower part of Weis' body.

Meanwhile, her parents have gotten the idea that they might like to put down roots and live in the area. They ask York if there is anyplace for sale in the area. Ever planting seeds, he tells them that no one lives in the castle, knowing full well that as a titled family residence it cannot be sold outright.
The spectacular castle also appears in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and served as the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's castle in Disney's theme parks.
Now back at the hotel, accepting money on behalf of both the suddenly injured driver and himself, York runs into Lansbury's footman again and the two plan to meet for a beer at the local biergarten. First, though, York peruses the local train schedule to be sure that one meets his needs...

There's a swingin' good time happening with the villagers that night and York is certain to get the hapless footman good and plastered, not that he needed much help in that direction. By the end of the night, York has to practically carry the man back home as they take the usual route up the train track.

And, as you may have guessed, the poor sap is mowed down by a locomotive. The locals gather to observe the tragedy of one of their own being killed on his walk home.
At the man's funeral, Lansbury and her children make a rare public appearance. Lansbury removes one of the stems from her bouquet to lay upon her late employee's grave, but saves the bulk of the flowers for her husband's headstone.

As she's about to depart, once again there is York! He's there under the pretense of offering his condolences (!) to her over the loss of her footman. But once the old priest acknowledges knowing him (from the earlier butterfly encounter), it winds up becoming a job offer. York is to report to work in the morning as her latest footman.
An example of the cinematic creativity at work here. These people in the circles are all targets of York's greed. They're in his sites.
He and Weis begin their love affair in earnest, secretly meeting in an out of the way glen. She's positively smitten with him, rather getting off on the idea that she is fabulously wealthy and he's a simple country boy-turned-footman (almost a Lady Chatterley's Lover sort of fantasy.)
York reports for work, ready to give his all, but is sized up right off the bat by the skeptical and intimidating (despite his tiny stature) majordomo Lier.

Then Carr comes bursting in with a stack of mothball tinged uniforms for York to try on.She likes to pretend that she's worldly and sophis- ticated when it comes to seeing the male form and insists that he try them on in front of her, but the minute he tests her by undoing his pants, she's out of there!
The dower house has an unbelievable menagerie of antlers on the walls, collected from years and years of hunting. It's a thorny, tangled setting for this story of entrapment and entanglement.

Serving Lansbury breakfast in bed, he takes note of her disap- pointment that there are no strawberries on her tray as she had requested.
Even just freshly-awakened, Lansbury still has the same heavily made-up face on!
She asks York to retrieve her sunglasses from the terrace by the lake and Corlan offers to show him where that is. York politely declines, but gives an enticing smile to the young man nonetheless.
A more beautiful setting could scarcely be found.
Down on the terrace by the water, York indeed finds the sunglasses, but once there he has another idea. Making certain that Corlan is observing him, he begins to remove his uniform...

...and strips down to his tightie-whities, running off the dock and into the cool blue. This movie (for no reason that I could ascertain) is rated R. It might have been even more scintillating had York stripped all the way down, but there is no nudity in the film. Kudos to him for diving into this water on location.

Just as intended, Corlan comes bounding down to the terrace and is soon in his own undies, diving in to splash around with York. Their intimate frolic, almost resembling ecstasy at moments, is observed by the stern and disapproving Lier.
York, realizing that he's not going to win over Lier in his customary fashion, decides he needs to find a way to rid himself of the man. Learning that no one is allowed in Lier's room, York breaks into it and is startled by what he finds.

Lansbury hosts a small dinner with a couple of local friends and, during the meal, York overhears information that he realizes might come in handy when dealing with the unfriendly majordomo.

Upstairs, Corlan and York are becoming better acquainted. Corlan asks York about his past like (his tattoos, whether he was a sailor before, etc...)

York talks about being in Japan, where all the men, women and children bathe together, leading to another moment of intimacy.

Suddenly, Lier appears in the room, sends Corlan out and demands that York pack his things and leave the house immed- iately. York manages to beg him for one night as he has nowhere to go. The next morning he heads into town.
He is able to convince the local authorities that Lier is a menace who needs to be gotten rid of. They come to the house, enter his room and just like that, he's out of the way!

York continues to meet with his young lovely, the wealthy and beautiful Weis. Placing her atop the rail of his bike, he takes her up to the dower house and sneaks her in.

In another telling moment of his self-importance, as they are undressing in his dingy room, he hangs her expensive blouse on a hook, but takes care to place his (one!) shirt carefully on a hanger...!

Even in this cramped, grimy hovel of a room, Weis cannot get the sexually magnetic York out of her system. She wants him to run away with her and live together. She cannot stand her newly-rich parents or the way they live. He has other, bigger (and secret) plans, however.

Corlan may or may not be aware that York has other interests besides him, but either way, he's caught in his own whirlpool of passion for the new majordomo.

Lansbury's financial condition is worsening by the moment. Her advisor wants her to be cautious with her money, but she can't fathom it. She'll hold on to her lifestyle at practically any cost.

York wins over his boss with a dish of strawberries and cream, which she devours with relish. Lansbury informs York of how her life once was and how it's all gone now. She delivers a remorseful, dejected monologue that ranges from sorrow to excoriating anger at the society around her and over the loss of her home. York explains to her that he knows of a lovely young girl with rich parents who, should she wed Lansbury's son, could supply the funds to reopen the castle.
It is determined that the best way to put the wheels in motion of a love match between these two people is a large, opulent party. It's a financial roll of the dice that guarantees nothing, but Lansbury opts to go for it and throws a huge soiree.
This segment of the film is a gleeful orgy of heinously ugly daytime finery draped on all sorts of garish, weathered, old money types.
Lansbury, in sleek black with coordinating hat slinks amongst the guests as only she can do, hobnobbing with all sorts of people she cannot stomach in order to put on a good show.
Lansbury might not be satisfied with the dower house, but its amazing in its own right!
Weis and her parents arrive, predictably done up to the nines. Her mother not only didn't adhere to the old rule of removing one item before leaving the house, she could have removed four or five and still be overdone!

Nevertheless, Lansbury finds the young lady lovely and heads over to butter up the tacky couple. God knows her own daughter has all the style and grace of a year-old piglet and won't be attracting any wealthy suitors to the fold...!

York takes Weis' parents up into the dower house (which is strangely abandoned inside after being shown with people on every floor a moment earlier!) for a little tour. Amidst the mountain of dessert nearby, York explains that he had no idea that the castle must be kept in the family and couldn't be sold to them, but he plants the seed that Lansbury's son could find an eligible young wife and reopen it.

With that, Meineke is aroused and puts two and two together. Her daughter can marry the son and heir to the castle and everyone will be able to live there in splendor. Thus, the whole plan with the party seems to be working beautifully as all the pieces are properly arranged by York.
These people are but figures on a chessboard for the manipulative York.
Weis is appalled that anyone could suggest that she wed Corlan, but York reveals that he instigated it all. He tells her that she and her husband need never even share a bedroom and that he would be on site the whole time so that they could continue their relationship all along.

With Corlan, he plays dumb to any of the plans, but does encourage Corlan to go along with the whole thing. He informs the boy that he will have to marry one day no matter what, so it may as well be this attractive one. And he and York can continue their love affair unfettered...!

Lansbury calls York to her for a meeting in which she goes into another diatribe about the loss of everything she held dear. She bemoans the fact that her husband couldn't bear up against the hardships they were under. She raises a glass to money and encourages York to get her son engaged to Weis.
Now York is chauffeuring the couple everywhere, trying to ignite a spark of romance between them, which is patently absent in every moment. While boating, she only has eyes for York. While riding in a coach, Corlan is the same. The couple is utterly miserable. Still, the time finally comes when the plan has seen fruition and the two are engaged.
While he remains at a polite distance from the announcement and the resultant family hubbub of the occasion, Lansbury knows that it was his doing and she subtly acknowledges him amid the chatter of the participants.
Now having thrown off her black widow's weeds, the white-clad Lansbury is exper- iencing life anew, practically bursting with enthusiasm as she and Weis' parents sign a complicated agreement regarding the funds of the young couple. She's even managed to get a dowry from the hapless parents.

Besides that, a positively beaming Lansbury heads a gargantuan parade up the driveway to the castle, with everyone there dressed in traditional Bavarian costume, in order to announce that that the place will be refurbished and reopened very soon.
The "happy" couple can barely manage to fake their disdain over the whole situation while everyone around them is delighted.

The dark, weathered gates of the castle entrance are parted to reveal a sunny walkway as this new chapter in the fairy tale lives of the wealthy begins.

The wedding is to take place in the bride's hometown, a city that is a train ride away. Lansbury informs her longtime lady in waiting that she won't be coming along (and we never see the woman again!)

She informs York that he is not just a servant to her. He's far more than that. He's brought new life to everything. She places him in charge of overseeing the renovation of the castle while she is away, something she cannot know is at the forefront of his desire and has been all along!

The darkened castle holds any number of relics, some of them threatening looking, but York is entranced with all of it. It's the place he feels most at home and soon he lights every candle on a series of broken down chandeliers and basks in the glow.
The newlyweds are now back home from their wedding. Interest- ingly, Weis has cut her hair and is wearing a mannish pantsuit (perhaps some unconscious attempt at appealing to her husband, who she doesn't realize is gay.) The pair is separated into two cars with each of their parents as they head back to the dower house.
Corlan cannot bear the situation. With the glass panel separating them from his mother, he unleashes his anguish over the whole mess to York and threatens to reveal the whole sordid mess if something isn't done.

York follows Corlan upstairs to comfort him and reassure him that everything will work out. Downstairs, Weis' parents are waiting for him to come down and drive them to the castle so that they can see the progress that's been made in their absence. Weis doesn't even want to go, but they insist.

She heads upstairs to get something for a headache she's suffering and walks in on York and her husband kissing! She's absolutely horrified and is about to scream until York slaps her and stifles her.

Now in a state of abject shock, York walks her down the hallway and stairs to the car where her parents are still waiting.

During the drive to the castle, her parents are busily dithering away about this and that while she sits emotionless, still unable to process what she's just witnessed.

Suddenly, it all comes screaming out of her and she begins a huge meltdown. She demands that York stop the car and becomes totally unhinged as her confused parents try to calm her down. Before its all said and done, York has managed to excise the three of them from the picture while still retaining the money.
Just one small, happy family?
Lansbury, renewed from the whole enterprise of regaining her fortune and having her home on the cusp of being reopened, is ever grateful to York. She seems to be interested in him in other ways now, too.
Angie is serving up some "side-boob" here...
She sets the stage for a seduction by donning her best Jean Harlow nightie and setting the mood in her boudoir. Feigning severe back pain, she has York come into her room and give her a working over.
Unable to get to her properly from the side of the bed, he removes his shoes and straddles her! She watches him in the mirrored headboard as begins to moan in pleasure at the deft touch of his hands.
They talk about Bette Davis' eyes?
This leads to a night of love-making between York and the newly-revitalized Lansbury.
Sneaking out of her room the next morning, York returns to his (still small) room to find Corlan waiting in his bed. Though nothing is said, it's clear that Corlan is aware that something's amiss...

Sure enough, very soon York is no longer a servant in the home, but is in fact seated at the big boy table opposite Lansbury! A new employee is there to serve his breakfast. But it gets worse.

Corlan and Carr come in from a morning swim to discover that York is going to be their new stepfather! He and Lansbury are engaged.
Take yer board shorts and stuff 'em...!
Corlan can't conceal his horror at this latest devel- opment. He tells his mother he's left his watch down by the water and storms out to retrieve it.

York follows him and tries to explain away this most recent shift in the game. He tries to reassure his stepson to be that everything will turn out all right.
We then see a flower-covered car entering the fully refurbished castle plaza. Is it a funeral?
No! It's the day of the big wedding! All of the townspeople have turned out in their finery for the big day as Lansbury arrives in her freshly-designed white suit. It's straight out of a fairy tale with the rows of footmen and the gloriously ornate interior of the estate. But do things turn out exactly as York planned? I'll never tell. (But you can see for yourself by clicking the link located in the first paragraph.)

As I noted earlier, this was a return to movies for Lansbury after having taken to the stage. She would also make Bedknobs and Broomsticks this same year which is by far the more enduring movie, though this was the juicier role (and she's wonderful.) She was, in fact nominated for a Golden Globe for this, but lost to Carrie Snodgrass in Diary of a Mad Housewife. Remarkably, it would be 1978 and Death on the Nile before she would make another movie. Though she's never ceased working, and is capable of enacting practically any type of part, she is now best-known for her twelve seasons of Murder, She Wrote and further TV movies as the intrepid mystery-writing detective Jessica Fletcher. Nominated three times for an Oscar, she was finally granted an Honorary one in 2014. The marvelous Miss Lansbury is now Dame Angela Lansbury and still works at age ninety-four.
Before injections and other lip-plumpers, ladies who wanted more volume would extend their lipstick beyond the natural line. This worked better with lip-liner. I kept wondering if Angela deliberately made hers SO obvious in this movie because at times it resembled a Kool-Aid stain.
Stage actor York first came to the screen with Franco Zeffirelli's The Taming of the Shrew (1967) with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor and soon appeared in the follow-up Romeo and Juliet (1968) for the same director. He enjoyed success in several 1970s movies from Cabaret (1972) to The Three Musketeers (1973) to Logan's Run (1976) and worked steadily thereafter in a combination of TV and films. (And let's not forget the crazed Lost Horizon, 1973!) Stricken with a debilitating disease called amyloidosis, he has been off screen since 2011, but has still but his distinctive voice to use for projects. He is currently seventy-seven.

Corlan (known since 1976 as Anthony Higgins) had appeared opposite Anjelica Huston in A Walk with Love and Death (1968) and Christopher Lee in Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) prior to this. He proceeded to a long career in many British and international productions including Voyage of the Damned (1976), Quartet (1981), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and The Bride (1985) among others. He also figured into the notable TV miniseries Lace and Lace II (with Phoebe Cates and her infamous, "Which of you three bitches is my mother?") His stage name was chosen to avoid confusion with another actor, but he was later able to reclaim his own moniker. He is currently seventy-two and still acts occasionally.

Though undeniably lovely, Austrian actress Weis was not exactly a dewy teen at this time. She was thirty and had been doing TV and films for a decade. She remained a very busy actress in her homeland for years to come, performing on screen as recently as 2015. She is now nearly eighty years of age.

Carr had made her film debut in 1969 as Mary McGregor in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969) and went on to countless appearances on British TV and occasional American series as well. She has lent her amusing voice to many animated projects (including The Fairly OddParents) and recently played Fairy Godmother on DC's Legends of Tomorrow. Currently sixty-nine, she is still likely to turn up on television or on a movie screen.

Expressive German actress Meineke worked in films from 1942 on, eventually adding much television to her resume. She continued to act up until 2008, but lived on another decade, passing away in 2018 at age ninety-four.

Diminutive yet imposing German actor Lier started in films in the late-1940s and remained busy right up to his death from cancer at age seventy-six.  Like many of the supporting players in Something for Everyone, his authentic European roots helped to lend authenticity to the cast.

Black comedy isn't for everyone, so perhaps this movie won't be for everyone, but I really enjoyed it. I thought it was gorgeous to look at throughout, had some great lines and contained quite a few delicious acting performances. Utterly undeserving of an R rating that may have limited its audience (I guess the fact that two men kiss earned it that distinction? One could see far more on a show like Empire now on basic network television and there is no foul language, nudity or visible violence), it remains unjustly obscure. Hal Prince's second movie A Little Night Music (1977) was not well received at all, but this one is expertly designed, deftly-edited and attractively shot. It truly deserves to be better known.