when i first heard of this film, i wasn't sure how i'd react to seeing peter sellers looking and acting like a hippie. however, i think he did a pretty good job and it's his performance as the middle-aged, slightly dis-illusioned lawyer that makes "i love you alice b. toklas" memorable. his american accent is convincing and i like the way that his is a slightly soft dialect the early sections are probably the best as sellers struggles to accept the fact that his own brother is a member of the local hippie commune. the funeral scene is fun to watch, it's well done without resorting to bad taste. the latter moments contain the weaker scenes, sadly. after the sellers character has given in to his desires to become a fellow hippie, the film's plot and pace suddenly drag somewhat(no pun intended there). the climax leaves the whole thing slightly in mid air, as though the ending hadn't been properly constructed. when released in 1968, "i love you alice b. toklas" failed to make much of an impact at the box office but i think this is one of peter sellers's stronger comedies of the period. worth watching if you are a dedicated sellers fan.
I LOVE YOU, ALICE B. TOKLAS! (1968) (94 minutes). A half-forgotten nearly 50 year old comedy from the Peter Sellers catalog that deserves another look. As written by Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker, and helmed by Hy Averback, this Los Angeles-based biting satire stars Sellers as a prim, middle-aged Jewish lawyer, a self-admitted 30-something square who decides to “ turn on, tune in, drop out,” as they used to say. He jilts his fiancée and embraces the 1960s counterculture after falling for a nubile flower child.
Sellers (THE PINK PANTHER, DR. STRANGELOVE), plays Harold Fine, whose dull existence gives way to the hippie lifestyle. Almost immediately after free-spirited Nancy, (Leigh Taylor-Young, PEYTON PLACE), enters his world and unleashes his inhibitions with spiked brownies. Joyce Van Patten, (GROWNUPS, MARLEY AND ME), as Joyce, Harold’s secretary/fiancée; and Jo Van Fleet, (COOL LAND LUKE, GUNFIGHT AT OK CORRAL, and one tough mother in EAST OF EDEN), as Harold’s mother provide fine support. You should see them bust out into belly laughs after eating the spiked brownies. David Arkin plays Harold’s brother Herbie; Herb Edelman plays Harold’s law partner Murray. Grady Sutton puts in a delicious turn as the funeral director more than inconvenienced by a lightning strike of hearse drivers.
First thing to say about this movie, it’s still funny, though perhaps it shows a different, more muted side of its star’s comic powers. Second outstanding fact, along with EASY RIDER, THE GRADUATE, GEORGY GIRL, BLOWUP and Elaine May’s HEARTBREAK KID, made in 1971, a couple of years later, it is an accurate portrayal of the time it was made. That would be the turbulent, now near mythical 1960s, the decade of sex, drugs and rock and roll.Read more ›
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Kiss my ankh!17 Sept. 2001
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Peter Sellers is actually fairly toned down in his role as an "uptight" Jewish lawyer who decides to join the Counterculture (quite literally, overnight) after ingesting pot brownies and enjoying a roll in the hay with a free-spirited "hippie chick" (radiant Michelle Phillips look-alike Leigh Taylor-Young). Despite the dated Hollywoodized trappings of late-60's psychedelia (including the inevitable Party Scene, although interestingly nobody falls into a swimming pool for a change), Paul Mazursky's script is at its heart a serio-comic tale of one man's mid-life crisis. Sellers fans take heart,there are still some supreme comic moments (a very stoned and giggly Sellers trying to "maintain" as he watches a straight-faced man getting fitted for a minidress is a definite highlight). The film may have inspired a sub-genre of "Middle Aged Guy/Free-Spirited Young Woman" films like "I'll Never Forget What's 'Is Name" and the more dramatic "Petulia". So warm up the VCR and grab a plate of brownies (don't forget the secret ingredient!)
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
This Movie Needs To Be Released On DVD!!!19 Jan. 2003
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It's a very sad state of affairs when a comic artist the caliber of Peter Sellers is not as appreciated as he should be. The man was a genius at playing the uptight middle class doltish kinda guy. And his Harold Fine is the quintessential umcd. I didn't see this film until the late 80's. My brother & I were stoned one night and just laughed our asses off. It was amazing how the film had retained its comic force after 20 years. After viewing it I gave it a few years and wondered if it wasn't just the added effect of the drugs but I saw it again stone cold sober and still lmao. Some of the 60's hippie-era stuff probably hasn't aged well but Sellers can't be denied. I think along with his brilliant triple-shot in Dr. Strangelove this is his best work. The film also benefits from its terrific supporting cast including Jo Van Fleet, Joyce Van Patten & Leigh Taylor Young(giving arguably the best of films many spaced-out hippie portrayals). Hopefully whoever owns the rights will get a clue and have this dvd-released sometime soon but if not I highly recommend the vhs version of this comic gem.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
An area is not a date!18 Mar. 2007
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Sellers is perfect in the restricted anxious role as the repressed asmatic Jewish raised status quo lawyer, Harold Fine. Joyce (Joyce Van Patten) remarks when his car is pinned in due to an unforseen parking challenge, "You are afraid to move Harold!" A few minutes later she confesses, "I am 33 years old & that is not an easy thing for me to say!" " Then asks, "Am I going to be your wife or am I going to continue to be your concubine?!"
His doting mother fabulously played by Joyce Van Fleet confuses him when she unexpectedly enters his office crying about a recently deceased family friend (Ed Foley) who supposedly saved his life but Harold doesn't remember & Harold mistakenly thinks she is referring to his beloved father.
This film is a wonderful vintage time capsule of the 1960's yet it is just as relevant today as it was then. I was very saddened to discover that the actor David Arkin, (who played Sellers' bohemian brother, "Herbie") comitted suicide in 1991. I can't help but feel that the strange optimism which was so strong in Mazursky & Tucker's screenplay alluded Arkin.
That being said......The screeenplay is wonderful & the actors are perfectly suited for their roles. The psychedlic music/score is fantastic. The scene where hippyi-chick Nancy & Harold accidentally get his parents high with Nancy's brownies (thanks to the famous recipe by Toklas NOT Ruebens!!!) is the ultimate munchy laughing scene. I have never laughed so much in unison with film characters as I have in this film. You have to see it to understand the power in this scene. I am totally convinced afer viewing this excellent film that actors are correct - comedy IS more difficult than tragedy.
This movie makes me wonder what was so different about the 60's as right now? I feel the same sentiments as all the main characters in this film feel. The very beautiful Leigh Taylor-Young (Nancy) innocently asks our repressed hero, "Why are you afraid of me?" This in my humble opinion is the seed of the film's story: Why are WE afraid of freedom?
I've come to the conclusion that integrity is what is missing today. This film comically yet very perfectly depicts man's eternal search for his True Self. The last lines in the movie are poignantly uttered by Sellers: I don't know where I'm going & I don't care...I don't care! There's got to be something beautiful out there! There has to be! I just know it!"
A very funny relevant (even in our jaded 21st century), even if vintage (dated) movie about a man seeking the meaning of Self. Simply beautiful!
29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
A very, very different time2 Jun. 2005
Chris K. Wilson
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The 1960s was such a unique decade - a kind of bridge connecting the bizarrely Eisenhower 50s with the polyester Nixon 70s. Watching films from the 60s is equally amusing. I watched "I Love You Alice B. Toklas" the other night, the 1968 drama/comedy starring the late-great Peter Sellers.
No multiple roles here for Mr. Sellers, and rarely a moment of slapstick. In fact, it's a serenely subtle performance as Sellers plays an inhibited square lawyer bored with the prospect of spending the rest of his life with his fiancee - a woman who happens to be his secretary. Sellers' character is about as exciting as Darrin Stephens with a hangover. But he's jarred from his straight-laced shell by the appearance of a free-spirited hippie chick who's fond of sitar music and hash brownies.
While hippies had been on the scene for a couple of years by 1968, not too many had been seen in films. But the message, I think, is the key.
A middle-aged, disillusioned man drops out of society to discover himself. He backs out of his wedding, quits his job and lives in the backseat of his car with his young hippie chick (played by the lovely Leigh Taylor-Young). This was a fairly brave stance during an era when society was told to marry, propagate and move to the suburbs.
The keynote moment, and one of the funniest scenes I have seen in a while, happens when Peter Sellers, his fiancee and his parents accidentally sample some hash brownies (made from an old Alice B. Toklas recipe, thus the film's title). This straight-laced crew, tasting drugs for the first time, fall on the floor in fits of laughter, playfully disrobe and eventually decide to play miniature golf. That's right, miniature golf. In some way, a dash of hash has enabled them to loosen up and touch their inner child. Sellers soon discovers the free-spirit path is not for him either, leading to the film's unforgettable final scene.
Paul Mazursky wrote the screenplay to this film, and would soon evolve into one of the greatest film directors no one has ever heard of. Mazursky's resume includes such brilliant works as "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice," "An Unmarried Woman," "Moscow on the Hudson" and "Enemies: A Love Story." "I Love You Alice B. Toklas" is where it began for this uniquely gifted filmmaker, a man whose works consistently document love, life and America's freedoms. Mazursky embraces the hippie movement of the 60s, but more so, embraces spiritual freedom.
As Altamont and the deaths of Joplin, Hendrix and Morrison revealed by 1971, the hippie movement was not the answer. In some ways, Mazursky already knew this. But with a purity of heart, he essentially said we could all learn something from this important philosophical uprising. I can't help but remember a film review of "Woodstock" by Roger Ebert. He profoundly said, "This was a time when people believed they could change the world with music. Today, it is very, very different."
When watching "I Love You Alice B. Toklas," I am transported back to that very, very different time.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Not a Psychedelic Artifact29 July 2006
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Some would dismiss this film as a free love era relic. Perhaps, but this film is so consistently funny. Credit Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker, this was around the time they were writing for "The Monkees", for crafting a script that gently lampoons the counterculture without feeling superior to it. There are any number of funny setpieces here. My favorite has to be Mr. Foley's funeral where Harold Fine(Peter Sellers) has to escort the deceased in a psychedelic loaner because the hearse drivers are on strike. And dig the jello mold with the Star of David centerpiece at Joyce(Joyce Van Patten) and Harold's wedding. The lunacy here is led by an inspired turn by Sellers. In a carefully modulated performance, Sellers anchors the film brilliantly. You are also convinced that Sellers' character would trade in the security of his button-downed lifestyle for a headband and lovebeads. Great supporting cast includes Jo Van Fleet as Harold's overbearing mother and a stunning Leigh Taylor-Young as Nancy, the hippie chick who convinces Harold to chuck it all and join the movement. Old time movie fans should note the presence of Grady Sutton, funny in a small bit as the funeral director.