Thursday, 17 May 2018

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (5 Stars)

This is a brilliant spy spoof, maybe one of the best parody films ever made. It was written by the comedian Mike Myers, featuring himself in the two main roles. The film makes fun of 1960's spy films, primarily the James Bond films. For fans of the old films it's an opportunity to sit and spot references, but even for the younger generation who have only limited knowledge of the old films it's hilarious. It's also a comedy about the English hippy culture of the 1960's.

Now to the plot. Austin Powers was England's best secret agent in the 1960's. His nemesis was Dr. Evil, a megalomaniac who wanted to rule the world. Isn't that what they all want to do? After failing in an attempt to kill Austin Powers Dr. Evil flees into space. He puts his body in deep freeze, so he can return when Austin Powers is dead or too old to stop him. Austin foils his plan by also letting himself be frozen, ready to be thawed when Dr. Evil returns.

The return is in 1997, the year when the film was made. While the two opponents prepare to clash we see Austin trying to adjust to the modern world. His biggest problem is that free love is no longer practised. He expects women to have sex with him – he uses the word "shag" – immediately after meeting him. It's not so easy these days. He has to be charming and polite and work hard to get women into bed.

Dr. Evil, also played by Mike Myers, has less problems adjusting. He was never interested in free love. All he wanted to do was rule the world. His biggest problem is building a relationship with his son Scott, who was born during his absence using his frozen semen.

A lot of the humour revolves around Austin Powers' social ineptness, but it's wrong to compare him with Johnny English, who is also inept as a spy. When it comes to his job Austin Powers is highly skilled. He knows exactly what he's doing. He rushes into action to take on his enemies with his trusty Walther PPK/S in his hand. This is one of the film's few errors. He's shown using the gun in 1967, but it wasn't designed until 1968.

Austin Powers is a skilled spy, but he has one fatal weakness. When he meets beautiful women he's too confused to think straight. That's understandable. I would have the same problem.

This film was followed by two sequels, both of which were almost as good as the first film. In 2008 he tried to continue with his success by starring in another self-written comedy film called "The Love Guru", but it didn't have the same magic as the Austin Powers films. Let's see if he's able to get his mojo back one day.

If you want to buy this film you'll have a difficult choice. The full version is only available in England. The American version has cut several scenes, some of which are included as "deleted scenes" in the extra features, but not all. In particular, Christian Slater's scene has been removed entirely from the American version. The American Blu-ray release has the film in its original 2.35:1 ratio, but the DVD releases on both sides of the Atlantic present the film in a cropped 2:1 ratio. In England the film has never been released on Blu-ray.

If you've never seen the film before your best choice is to buy the American Blu-ray. It's the best quality you can get for your money. If you're a fan of the film like me – I saw it in the cinema when it was first released – you'll be annoyed by the missing scenes, so you'll be better buying the English DVD.

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