Tuesday, 28 April 2015
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (5 Stars)
No other film shows the difference in the sense of humour between countries. In America this film was enormously successful and was one of the biggest box office hits of 1997. In England the film was also a success, but there were mixed opinions, many people saying they found the humour silly. The reception in Germany was the most extreme. Whereas the Americans were laughing throughout the film, the Germans sat in icy silence. Whenever there was something they perceived to be a joke they cautiously looked left and right to see if anyone else was laughing. In Germany the public and the critics held a consensus was that that the film was dreadful.
The differences can be explained by the type of humour. "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" is primarily a spoof of the early James Bond films, in particular the first five films in which Sean Connery played the leading role. Dr. Evil is an almost exact copy of Blofield, Random Task represents Odd Job, Alotta Fagina represents Pussy Galore, etc. These parodies automatically include making fun of England in the 1960's, which went through a cultural revolution very different to the hippy movement of America in the 1960's. That is probably what piqued the English audiences. The English are usually able to laugh at themselves, but they're sensitive when they think Americans are making fun of them. That wasn't the intention of the film, far from it, but that's what it looked like.
In the case of Germany it's slightly different. First of all, the Germans have a great love for the English, a love they don't feel for America. I don't know where this comes from, but I experienced it personally as an Englishman in Germany, and it's existed for more than a hundred years. In "Mein Kampf" Adolf Hitler described England as Germany's natural ally, and he was shocked when England declared war on Germany in 1939. For the Germans the Second World War was an unnatural affair of brothers fighting, they thought England and Germany should have been allies waging war against Russia and France. Secondly, the Germans hold the James Bond films in high reverence. The Germans considered it disrespectful to make fun of James Bond.
Shortly before the film appeared in the cinemas there was a 60-minute special shown on MTV called "The Electric Psychedelic Pussycat Swingers Club", the name of Austin Powers' favourite London nightclub in the 1960's. This programme presented Austin Powers in the style of a "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" episode. Clips from the programme are even shown during the film, including the dancing girls and Ming Tea's performance of "BBC" during the final credits. I taped the programme at the time, but I no longer have it. It was brilliant, at least as good as the first Austin Powers film, maybe even better. I've tried in vain to get a copy of it ever since. It ought to be a DVD extra, but it isn't. I'd certainly buy it if it were ever released as a standalone disc. Does anyone know if I can find it online? I've looked, believe me, I've hunted for it.
I've been told that the scenes in which Christian Slater appears as a rather stupid looking security guard have been omitted from the American version of the film. Can anyone in America please confirm this for me?