Start the Revolution Without Me

Start the Revolution Without Me is a 1970 American comedy film directed by Bud Yorkin and starring Gene Wilder, Donald Sutherland, Hugh Griffith, Jack MacGowran, Billie Whitelaw, Orson Welles (playing himself as narrator) and Victor Spinetti. The comedy is set in revolutionary France where two peasants are mistaken for the famous swordsmen, the Corsican Brothers. It can be considered a parody of a number of works of historical fiction about the French Revolution, including Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities and Dumas' The Corsican Brothers and The Man in the Iron Mask.

Start the Revolution Without Me
Promotional movie poster for the film
Directed byBud Yorkin
Produced byBud Yorkin
Written byLawrence J. Cohen
Fred Freeman
StarringGene Wilder
Donald Sutherland
Hugh Griffith
Jack MacGowran
Billie Whitelaw
Orson Welles
Victor Spinetti
Ewa Aulin
Music byJohn Addison
CinematographyJean Tournier
Edited byFerris Webster
Distributed byWarner Bros.-Seven Arts
Release date
  • February 4, 1970 (1970-02-04)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States


Two sets of identical twins, played by Wilder and Sutherland, are accidentally switched at birth. One set, Phillipe and Pierre DeSisi, is aristocratic and haughty, while the other set, Charles and Claude Coupé, is poor and dim-witted. On the eve of the French Revolution, both sets find themselves entangled in palace intrigues.



Vincent Canby of The New York Times had a negative opinion and wrote, "The performances are desperate, without being in any way memorable, thus matching the wit of the screenplay."[1] Arthur D. Murphy of Variety called the film "disappointing," finding that "[t]he final mix never jells, despite some occasional, and genuine, hilarity ... There is a sluggishness and heaviness to some of the direction when the script is in good shape; and when the direction has lightness and zest, the script is in a slump."[2] Gene Siskel gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and declared it "a terribly funny parody of the over-stuffed 18th century costume dramas that crowd the vaults of many a major studio."[3] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times praised the film as "an absolutely georgeous piece of costume kookery, a dazzling and sustained farce which is also a mad, affectionate tribute to every epee epic, every sabre-and-sex, bodice-and-bodkin historical melodrama anybody ever saw."[4] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote that the film "is not without some oafish and wrong-headed touches, but on the whole it's a witty and engaging picture, an affectionate and competent revival of traditional farce."[5] Richard Combs of The Monthly Film Bulletin thought that Sutherland and Wilder "carry of an assortment of roles in lively fashion," but "the pacing of the film as a whole is unpleasantly jarring."[6]


Start the Revolution Without Me authors Fred Freeman and Lawrence J. Cohen were nominated for a WGA award for "Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen" in 1971.


  1. Canby, Vincent (February 5, 1970). "'Start the Revolution Without Me' Bows". The New York Times. 31.
  2. Murphy, Arthur D. (February 4, 1970). "Film Reviews: Start The Revolution Without Me". Variety. 18.
  3. Siskel, Gene (May 22, 1970). "Start the Revolution Without Me". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 13.
  4. Champlin, Charles (April 22, 1970). "Inspired Kind of Spoofery in 'Revolution'". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 1.
  5. Arnold, Gary (July 10, 1970). "Twin Trouble". The Washington Post. B12.
  6. Combs, Richard (January 1971). "Start the Revolution Without Me". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 38 (444): 14.
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