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4.6 out of 5 stars27
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 November 2010
The Battle of the Sexes is directed by Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob/ The Titfield Thunderbolt) and it stars Peter Sellers, Robert Morley & Constance Cummings. It's based on the short story The Catbird Seat written by James Thurber, with the script written by Monja Danischewsky.

The grand House of MacPherson in Scotland has been supplying genuine Scottish tweeds for many years. Tho Woven out in the sticks by the professionals, the tweeds are sold out of the Macpherson HQ in Edinburgh. When Old MacPherson (Ernest Thesiger) dies, his son, Young MacPherson (Morley), takes over but is hardly blessed with business acumen. Things start to get dicey when he brings in Angela Barrows (Cummings) as an efficiency expert, an American lady he met on the train. The ageing staff, led by Mr. Martin (Sellers), is horrified as she starts updating the methods of running a business. To their minds a woman is for making the tea and cleaning up, not for doing away with hundreds of years of tradition with new fangled contraptions and ideas. However, Mr. Martin hatches a plan to rid the company of this meddlesome modern tyrant.

Something of an unknown British comedy featuring the great Peter Sellers, The Battle of The Sexes sees him teamed with Crichton to deliver a smart and very funny piece. The film is dealing in cultural clashes and the battle is not just of the sexes, but also a poignant conflict between the advent of time and its impact on business'. Arcane traditionalists versus the forward thinking modern capitalist: or if you like? British custom versus American progress. Both played superbly by Sellers; as the calm and unhurried Mr. Martin; and Cummings as the get up and at em quickly Angela Barrows. Danischewsky's script is very impressive given that the source was very slight, and Crichton has done wonders to not let the film descend into slapstick or out of place screwball. Much like Mr. Martin, the comedy is very sedate, unhurried or forced. There's some farce in there, with one chase sequence in Angela's apartment wonderfully constructed, but the film never gets out of control and it's all the better for it. As the two rivals try to outwit each other, this brings Morley's (great as usual) oblivious Young Mac into play. The result is a three pronged character piece deserving of a bigger audience. 8/10
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on 27 February 2011
I've been trawling Amazon for old British films and this is one of my favourite recent purchases. A delightfully dark comedy, with a hugely enjoyable performance from Sellers. Says every bit as much about faceless corporate business as it does about the gender gap. Wonderfully scripted, great character actors and not a weak moment in the entire film.

Buy it! Watch it! Write a longer review than I have...
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 January 2015
As one delves into the archives of British film it really is amazing what gems can be unearthed and (for me) Charles Crichton’s 'Ealing comedy-like’ 1959 film (with a sharp script by Monja Danischewsk) is just one such gem. Of course, the film’s sexist premise ('a woman’s place....’, etc, etc) has to be put to one side for 90 glorious minutes during which Crichton (whose credentials, of course, include of one Britain’s greatest ever comedies, The Lavender Hill Mob) and his star, the inimitable Peter Sellers, give us a fast-moving, quick-witted, nicely-plotted, evocative tale of man vs. woman or, perhaps at least as accurately, modernity vs. traditional values.

Crichton’s film actually mixes elements of other great British comedies, I’m Alright, Jack (made the same year) and the earlier The Man In The White Suit and Whisky Galore! as Constance Cummings’ brusque, modern businesswoman, American Angela Barrows (with newly-found acquaintance Robert Morley’s indecisive, heir to his father’s tweed-weaving business, Robert MacPherson, in tow) is parachuted into the archaic, fusty Edinburgh business putting up the backs of all concerned and, most particularly, that of Sellers’ reserved, abstinent accountant , Mr Martin. As the brash Barrows attempts to modernise the ‘quill-based’ workforce, Crichton (and cinematographer Freddie Francis) do a great job setting up the calm, antiquated ambience of MacPhersons, with its cast of lived-in faces, where Patricia Hayes’ (yes, Mrs Cravat!) office tea lady is the only response to the newcomer’s question, ‘Don’t you have women in your business?. The demonstration of the business’ filing system and Barrows’ surprise (and discomfort) on visiting the Hebridean cottage industry for producing the source tweed are just two of the film’s highlights.

Sellers is, of course, superb as the initially shocked, then scheming, inventive Martin, as he attempts to undermine the infiltrator’s modernisation plans ('2 + 2 = 22’) – the montage of Martin sabotaging the new 'modern equipment’ is brilliantly choreographed (as are other sequences). Similarly, Martin’s plotting and then execution of Barrow’s downfall (planned with the assistance by Sherlock Holmes on-screen) is also a sequence of comic genius (reminiscent of the later Pink Panther films) and nicely punctuated with its 'ladykiller’ reference.

A film that appears to have been much under-rated and which comes highly recommended.
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on 31 May 2012
For those film fans who only knew Peter Sellers as the bumbling French Inspector Jacques Clouseau, "The Battle Of The Sexes" will be a revelation. Here is Sellers totally immersed into the character of a mild-mannered and ultra-polite accountant at the House of MacPherson in Edinburgh. For decades, he has faithfully served the company, quietly totting up rows of figures all carefully entered into a ledger with pen and ink. When the founder of the firm passes on, his none-too-bright son played by Robert Morley comes back from America with a no-nonsense female efficiency expert in tow. She takes one look at MacPherson's Woollens and decides that it is behind the times and run by old fuddy-duddies. She ruthlessly sets about moderninizing the place and upsets everyone in the process. When polite attempts to stop her fail, Sellers character Mr. McMartin decides that she must be done away with. His bad timing at every step gives us some of the funniest moments in the film. Sellers' portrayal of the soft-spoken accountant is simply wonderful and this film is a tribute to the genius of this incredible actor.
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on 3 November 2011
Think "The Man in the White Suit" and the same Ealing comedy formula applied to this amusing film. Robert Morley for Cecil Parker, Peter Sellers for Alec Guiness, even Ernest Thesinger appears in both films. The first Michael Balcon film after the closure of Ealing Studios. If you like Ealing Comedies, you'll love this.
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on 28 April 2006
Not quite sure what the other reviewer is referring to when he talks about the supposedly terrible DVD quality; maybe he had a dud copy, as my one is pretty sharp and well transferred, and certainly not just a few "well lit faces in inky blackness". It's not particularly flash but for a budget title you can't complain. Again, perhaps he/she had a dodgy disc.

As for the film itself, Sellers is fantastic and Robert Morley provides firm comic back up in this rather majestic "little comedy" which only gets marks deducted for its bizarre "battle of the sexes" spin, which only comes to the fore in a couple of voiceovers (particularly a horrendously sexist "a woman's tears...") and the title itself. The battle here is for traditional values v. modern industrialisation, and the fact that the one who wants to modernise the fibre business is a woman should be neither here nor there. Bit misleading, that.

Still, a fun little movie and certainly worth a fiver. 8/10
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on 19 January 2015
It has an effective Ealingesque start and a lovely subtle performance by Peter Sellers. And the oldsters in the office, Ernest Thesiger who looked old in Bride of Frankenstein 24 years earlier, Constance Cummings and even Robert 'acquired taste' Morley are all fine. And although there is one brilliant slapstick scene thereafter in gorgeously mature Constance's kitchen, there is not much subtlety in the plot and it rather peters out with a few unconvincing twitches of the scenerist's 'satirical' pen. Quality Freddie Francis photography and some delightful little asides can't quite raise it to Ealing heights. It's on the cusp of the 60s and already feeling a bit old-fashioned in the way that the early 50s British satires, which didn't bother with issues so obviously, don't.
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on 29 August 2014
A charming light comedy of its time, well written, well acted -Peter Sellers at his best! - a funny film.
It is subtle and witty, reflecting tradition versus modernity. It was the title of the film that attracted me, I was curious to find out if there really was a battle going on between men and women and how it is still relevant. You have to draw your own conclusion of this matter, my husband and I both loved it, but for different reasons. He thinks it is mistitled and not really about men versus women, while I agree in part with him, I can't turn a blind eye to the fact that the 1950's was very much a mans world.
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on 6 September 2010
This film was absolutely brilliant,funny and well acted.Peter Sellars especially was outstanding. Well worth the modest purchase price.
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on 6 May 2013
It's a very mild comedy, and a good period piece from the late 1950s, but best for advanced Peter Sellers fans.
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