Barry McKenzie Holds His Own (1974)

Article 3722 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-8-2011
Posting Date: 10-23-2011
Directed by Bruce Beresford
Featuring Barry Crocker, Barry Humphries, Donald Pleasence
Country: Australia
What it is: Wild Aussie comedy

When Barry McKenzie goes abroad with his Aunt Edna, the latter is mistaken for the queen of England by Transylvanian spies who intend to kidnap her and take her to the castle of Count von Plasma, a communist vampire. Can Barry rescue her?

This Australian comedy (an example of the current renaissance of Australian culture, or so the man tells me at the beginning of the movie) is what is generally described as “outrageous”; it’s certainly not politically correct, with its flirtations with racism and homophobia, and it’s often crude and very lowbrow (with its incessant foul language and its emphasis on bodily functions, sex, scatology, and nonstop beer-drinking). And, truth to tell, it’s only sporadically funny. But what may be more to the point is that even when the movie doesn’t work, it doesn’t annoy me; the jokes that fall flat don’t do so in a way that makes me cringe. In truth, I think, on a whole, the movie more or less works. I think it’s because it succeeds in its primary purpose, which I believe is to present a somewhat endearing yet over-the-top parody of broad Australian stereotypes. Somehow, all the cussing sounds natural when peppered with a plethora of Australian idioms, so it doesn’t grate on the ear. My favorite moments are the musical numbers; somehow, these crude ditties gain a lot of comedic value when whole crowds of people sing along with them. I do find myself wondering just how much of the budget of the movie was dedicated to creating the geyser of foam that emerges from every can of Foster’s opened during the run of the movie. Sadly, one of the things that does not work is Pleasence’s performance here; his vampire character is saddled with a bad speech impediment that simply isn’t funny.


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