Mr. Topaze

Directed by Peter Sellers
Film Movement Classics
1961
97 Minutes
United Kingdom
English
Comedy, Drama, Classics
Not Rated

Unwilling to sacrifice his principles, Albert Topaze (Peter Sellers), a poor but proud French schoolmaster, loses his job after he refuses to alter the failing grades of one of students. Seizing the opportunity to exploit his well-known honesty, actress Suzy Courtois (Nadia Gray) convinces her lover, the corrupt city council member Castel Benac (Herbert Lom), to hire Topaze as a managing director for one of his shady businesses. But when Topaze learns he is being used, he cunningly turns the tables on Benac and makes off with all the money.

Seller’s first and only credited directorial feature, MR. TOPAZE displays the British comic genius at the peak of his powers alongside his future Pink Panther nemesis Herbert Lom and a stellar supporting cast that includes Nadia Gray, Leo McKern, Billie Whitelaw and Michael Gough. Long considered a “lost” classic, MR. TOPAZE was digitally restored at the request of the British public from the last known surviving 35mm prints held in the BFI National Archive.

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Reviews

  • "Peter Sellers directs and stars in this bittersweet comedy, based on a Marcel Pagnol play and chosen by the British public in 2016 to be digitized by the BFI. Described by Sellers biographer Roger Lewis as a lost classic, Mr. Topaze marked the actor's directional feature debut and teamed him with his The Ladykillers cohort and future Pink Panther comic foil Herbert Lom, in a stellar cast that also features Nadia Gray, Leo McKern, Billie Whitelaw and John Le Mesurier. Playing the eponymous Mr. Topaze, a poor, provincial French schoolteacher slowly corrupted by big business, Sellers is at the peak of his powers. This melancholy character comedy , rarely seen since its release ... is essential viewing for fans of Sellers' unique genius."
    Gary Tooze, DVD Beaver
  • "[T]he film ... truly shines. Based on a Marcel Pagnol play, it boasts a fine understated central turn from Sellers himself and boasts a stellar cast including the great Herbert Lom (who'd teamed up with Sellers in The Ladykillers some years previously and would later spar so memorably with the comedian in the Pink Panther series as the wonderfully jittery Inspector Dreyfus), Leo McKern, Billie Whitelaw and John Le Mesurier. The story itself may be slight, but Sellers imbues it all with a sense of fun that is right up there with his finest work of the period. That top-class cast have tons of fun bouncing off each other and there's a quaint early-60s charm to it all that renders it almost a masterclass in moody melancholia."
    Ralph McLean, The Irish News
  • "Its abiding bittersweetness, in fact — more than its flashes of familiarly dithering humor — is what has become this “lost” curio’s chief preservative. What stands out, unsurprisingly, is Sellers himself — if not his behind-the-scenes navigation, then what obviously mattered most to the ascending star: burnishing his versatility by adding Pagnol’s threadbare, dignified pedant with a blind spot to a growing repertoire of memorably amusing/hapless characters."
    Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times