Native Australian actor and writer Barry Humphries started his career with the creation of the hugely popular comic strip "Barry McKenzie", a biting satire of the ocker mentality (sort of an outback redneck), that turned into a cultural phenomenon which glorified the ockers, much to the chagrin of Humphries. Of course, I'm sure Humphries couldn't have been that irritated with it as it lead to his TV character comedies (Edna Everage being the most well known outside of Oz) and two very funny feature films THE ADVENTURES OF BARRY MCKENZIE (1972) and BARRY MCKENZIE HOLDS HIS OWN (1974), both directed by Bruce Beresford.
|A Barry McKenzie strip from November 1966|
While the Prime Minister of Australia, Bob (Paul Jennings), is in the midst of tearing Les a new one, he gets a call from US President Rivers (an uncredited Joan Rivers). Apparently Shiek Toul is the ruler of the small, but pivotal Arabic state that is about to accept help from the Russians to oppress the masses. The US is looking to support a military coup, installing a suave Colonel Richard Godowni (Thaao Penghlis) to the throne and securing the sales of military hardware. To this end, President Rivers demands that Patterson be promoted to the ambassador to Abu Niveah, thus ensuring a catastrophic breakdown that would allow Godowni to take over. A surprisingly complicated set-up for a movie that kicks off with an exploding fart joke.
After the coup is successful, Patterson runs into a French scientist, Dr. Charles Herpes (Henri Szeps), who has discovered an antidote to an obscure virus that makes people swell up into a mess of squirting pustules before they die. Patterson convinces him that they could make a bundle by infecting the world with the virus and then presenting the antidote to much acclaim... and cash. Unfortunately this plan is cut short when Godowni secretly makes a pact with the Russians who steal the virus with the plan to destroy America by selling them infected toilet seats. I'm probably making this sound more highbrow than it really is.
Dame Edna is also thrown into the mix, here posing as the leader of a group of feminist housewife emissaries, the "Possums for Peace", when in fact she is an undercover CIA badass. Another good idea handled so clumsily by Humphries, you'd think Tom Brady deflated his balls.
This pre-Austin Powers bumbling Bond satire is mainly just an excuse for a string of quite possibly the most forced humor in the history of cinema. The jokes feel like they were hastily written the morning of the shoot. Some even seem unfinished. In one scene Edna is told she will be put up in "the Hotel Sodom" and she says "like Sodom and Gomorrah?" to which the reply is "not quite." This is followed by a shot of the hotel sign that reads "Hotel Sodom". What happened there? Did Humphries lose the rest of that joke in a poker game or was the punchline the fact that the neon sign reads "Sod Hot" in the background of a later shot?
Even worse, there is a scene in the White House where President Rivers is being shown an image of the virus, to which she says "it's horrible, it's like a little Vincent Price!" Hey, hey, hey! Say what you want about the Irish, but you leave Vincent Price out of this!