Wednesday, 18 February 2009

231: "A Day at the Beach" with Peter Sellers (1970)

A surprise cameo by Peter Sellers and his good friend Graham Stark in “A Day at the Beach” (1970). The script was written by Roman Polanski who was due to direct the film too. Sharon Tate was murdered just as he was preparing. Polanski’s comedy, “The Fearless Vampire Hunters” also has a vampire played comic gay. “A Day at the Beach” had a very limited release. It is by all accounts a fairly sombre affair, and Sellers and Stark’s cameo is an unusual piece of relief with deliberately nasty dramatic overtones. Lord only knows how the two came to be in it (although Polanski was in Sellers’s “The Magic Christian” in 1969). Apparently Sellers was credited as “A.Queen”. It’s probably best to compare this gay couple to characters in other contemporary films like “Boys in the Band” and “Staircase”. Here we have two languorous queens who are rather too old, in several ways, for the fashions they wear, and so a little grotesque. Both flirt with / stare hungrily at the young man (Mark Evans) who plays along, if aggressively. A certain primping, fiddling with hair, and Stark’s heavily beringed, effeminate hands is par for the course. Sellers deep-throating the arms of his spectacles is not. Seller’s spiteful bitchiness towards his absent partner as a form of flirtation is not unrealistic, though it provides an excuse for threats by the young man towards Stark as a means of proving his superiority. So not quite comic relief, but much of it played for laughs of a kind. It's certainly a million mile away from the likes of Dick Emery.

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