"Fighting solves nothing," says a da Franchi to a de Guidice. Pow! -- the de Guidice smacks him right in the kisser. And so it goes on, day in and day out on wacky, smacky Corsica circa 1820 in the Norman Rosemont ornamental windbag production of "The Corsican Brothers," a swishbungling riot adapted from an Alexandre Dumas antique. CBS reelingly and unrealingly unreels it at 9 tonight on Channel 9.
This sort of hysterical costume hoot has already been lampooned, spoofed and given its satirical due by filmmakers aplenty, and boy is it ripe for it, but this version achieves the silliest heights by playing it all straight, even down to Jean Marsh in the Maria Ouspenskayan role of village crone, who stalks about the town during lulls between brawls pointing woeful fingers and murmuring, "I speak only what is written!"
So do all the actors in this picture, and more's the pity for them, but producer Rosement looks at it this way: hey, you've got Europe just sitting there, why not use it as the setting for an old-timey hoop-de-doo. The brothers of the title are born Siamese twins during a furious gun battle; Geraldine Chaplin as their pregnant mother has to get up from labor to fire a few rounds from her bedroom window with a rifle.
Later the twins are separated and as grown men are both played by a pouty and disheveled Trevor Eve. He gets to experience an actor's dream, though; in one scene, through the magic of the movies, he hugs himself.
The de Guidices and the da Franchis (let's just call them the de's and the da's) make the Montagues and Capulets look as lovey-dovey as the Eyewitness News Team. Two women in the village square argue over a chicken. Result: one little boy stabbed in the back. "The French think we're barbarians," says one brother. "I don't care what the French think!" growls the other. "I hate the French!" scowls the other. "I hate them almost as much as the de Guidices!"
Well, if you don't worry about being stabbed over a chicken you can worry that The Voices will summon you in the night. At night everything turns blue, and spooks in pointy hats summon you to the beyond. They summon one guy with a beard and the next day he rides out into the country and lets an avalanche fall on his head.
When one of the brothers goes to Paris to plead for Corsica, he gets mixed up with a decadent court and the particularly decadent Duc de Cha teau Renaud. No, he is not a wine. He is a duke. He commits an offense and in the name of honor the brother must duel with him even though the brother doesn't know a broach from a brioche. The spooks play peekaboo outside his window that night -- not a good sign. He tells friends to cheer up his mother by telling her he died of brain fever. That will help.
When he is killed in the duel, the brother feels aches all the way down in his provence. To horse, to horse, and off he goes, riding his valiant steed even across the Mediterranean Sea! Can he get to Paris in a twinkling to avenge his brother's death? In a movie like this? Of Corsican!