The Battle of the Sexes (1959)
Sex Mad, But Not in That Way
When his father passed away Robert MacPherson (Robert Morley) inherited the family tweed business in Edinburgh and heads back to Scotland via train, a journey which brings him in to contact with Angela Barrows (Constance Cummings), a brash American efficiency expert who has the ability to rub up men the wrong way. When Robert decides to let Angela loose on the traditional tweed making business he immediately annoys Mr. Martin (Peter Sellers) the head clerk and close friend of Robert's late father who had asked him to keep an eye on the business as he feared Robert would mess things up. Angela's efficiency proposals and then her cost cutting suggestion that they use synthetic fibre pushes him to consider all sorts of things to get rid of her including murder.
I hate to say this but "The Battle of the Sexes" disappointed me as between the concept, the cast and the director I had high expectations but other than a couple of really funny scenes between Sellers and Cummings the rest of the movie doesn't kick in to gear. But here is the thing; despite being disappointing it is still good and worth watching for those scenes where the whole movie springs in to life with great comic timing and energy from all involved.
Now "The Battle of the Sexes" is sort of amusing to start with just because of the curious casting of Donald Pleasence as a quirky American, I presume American because his accent is all over the place almost as all over the place as his facial expression. But unfortunately after that the whole thing lumbers along as Angela tries to update the MacPherson business as Robert tries to woo her and Mr. Martin mischievously does what he can from tinkering with squawk boxes to over ordering clocking in machines to try and get rid of her. Those things may sound funny but they are all rather quiet and underplayed. It is not until Mr. Martin decides he is going to have to kill Angela that things eventually come together and delivers the energetic comedy which the script is crying out for.
Despite that the performances are fun and between Peter Sellers, Robert Morley and Constance Cummings they deliver plenty of laughs even if they are not as big as you would like. But rather strangely "The Battle of the Sexes" is lacking something and with this being a movie set in Scotland I would have loved to have seen Alastair Sim in their somewhere.
What this all boils down to is that "The Battle of the Sexes" is entertaining especially if you are a fan of old British comedies. But it is one which seems to struggle for big laughs until it all comes together for a couple of scenes of full on comedy which makes the slow build up worth while.
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