The Last Remake of Beau Geste

The Last Remake of Beau Geste is a 1977 American historical comedy film.[3] It starred and was also directed and co-written by Marty Feldman. It is a satire loosely based on the novel Beau Geste, a frequently-filmed story of brothers and their adventures in the French Foreign Legion. The humor is based heavily upon wordplay and absurdity. Feldman plays Digby Geste, the awkward and clumsy "identical twin" brother of Michael York's Beau, the dignified, aristocratic swashbuckler.

The Last Remake of Beau Geste
Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
Directed byMarty Feldman
Produced byWilliam S. Gilmore
George Shapiro
Howard West
Bernie Williams[1]
Screenplay byChris Allen
Story bySam Bobrick
Marty Feldman
Based onBeau Geste by P.C. Wren
StarringMarty Feldman
Michael York
Peter Ustinov
James Earl Jones
Trevor Howard
Henry Gibson
Roy Kinnear
Spike Milligan
Music byJohn Morris
CinematographyGerry Fisher
Edited byJim Clark
Arthur Schmidt
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • July 15, 1977 (1977-07-15)
Running time
85 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$4 million[2]

It was the feature film directorial debut of Feldman. He subsequently went on to direct In God We Tru$t (1980).


Spoofing the classic Beau Geste and a number of other desert motion pictures, the film's plotline revolves around the heroic Beau Geste and his brother Digby's misadventures in the French Foreign legion out in the Sahara, and the disappearance of the family sapphire, sought after by their money-hungry stepmother.




Feldman had appeared in two film spoofs made by actor-writer-directors, Young Frankenstein and The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother. In 1976 Universal signed him to a five picture deal to act, write and direct in films, starting with The Last Remake of Beau Geste.[4]

"We see Marty as a triple threat artist," said a Universal spokesman. "Marty is like a throwback to the old silent comics who could do it all. It doesn't matter that he's British because physical gags travel.That's why he has a major future ahead of him and why we've made a major, major investment in Marty at Universal."[5]

"Everybody has a five picture deal," said Feldman. "Until the first picture bombs. Then they have a no picture deal."[6]

Feldman called it a "broad comic parody".[7] He wrote it during and after the making of Sherlock Holmes.[5]

"There's the whole idea of dying nobly, a bull---- idea. The film will poke fun at the way people think about war, dying for flags instead of people, heroism. There is a serious element in all comedy... the two overlap and merge. I see life as absurd and there's dignity in the absurd. Keaton had it. Chaplin had it. Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce. What we're saying about life is laugh."[8]

"I didn't want to work with clowns but actors who can clown," he said.[8]


Filming began 30 August 1976.[9]

The film was shot on location in Madrid, and in Ireland at Ardmore Studios in Bray, and on location at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin and Adare Manor near Limerick.

Filming was difficult, with the shoot plagued by rain in Spain.[10] Feldman fell ill with chicken pox during the making of the film and production was shut down while he went away to recover.

The film went over budget and over schedule.[11]

After completing his cut, Universal sent him on a two-week "working vacation." While he was gone, Universal arranged for the film to be recut and made the composer do a new score. Feldman's friend Alan Spencer said the two cuts were markedly different - Feldman's was more surreal and Monty Python-like, whereas the Universal version told a more linear story. The Universal version ended with a scene where the Feldman one started, because his was told in flashback. Spencer says both versions were tested, and Feldman's version tested better, but the Universal one was released.[11]


The film currently holds a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 9 reviews.[12]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote a positive review of the film, describing it as having "a whole range of jokes that are funny primarily because they are in absolutely terrible taste."[13] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4 and called it "only a slightly above-average comedy. It starts out with a number of funny sequences, and Feldman is funny-looking for a few minutes. But I don't find him interesting enough or funny enough or likable enough to carry an entire movie."[14] Arthur D. Murphy of Variety wrote that the film "emerges as an often hilarious, if uneven, spoof of Foreign Legion films ... An excellent cast, top to bottom, gets the most out of the stronger scenes, and carries the weaker ones."[15] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "There are too few jokes and rapturous inventions to sustain even the movie's brief 85 minutes, some of those that exist are strained too hard and some should have been dropped after the first draft. It gets to be a long siege at the fort."[16] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote, "Although there's no difference in the games they like to play, Feldman seems a shaky, bush-league terrible joker compared to a prodigal, big-league terrible joker like [Mel] Brooks ... Feldman often seems uncertain about whether a sight gag will pay off, so to reassure himself, he'll run it into the ground."[17] Penelope Gilliatt of The New Yorker called the film "recklessly funny" and "a hilarious exercise in taste run amok."[18] Tom Milne of The Monthly Film Bulletin declared it "a ragbag of a film which looks like nothing so much as a Monty Python extravaganza in which inspiration has run dry and the comic timing gone sadly awry."[19]

The film was described as a "surprise hit" and he was able to direct a second film.[20]


Marty Feldman was disappointed with the print distributed in theaters because the studio edited its own version. Attempts have been made to have the director's cut restored, but so far these have proved fruitless. According to Michael York, "Marty's version was much funnier." The film was released in America on DVD on January 11, 2010 as part of the Universal Vault Series of DVD-on-Demand titles, sold on, in the UK, the film was released through Second Sight Films on January 24, 2011.[21]


  1. Barnes, Mike (2015-01-12). "Bernard Williams, Producer on 'A Clockwork Orange' and 'Ragtime,' Dies at 72". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-01-24.
  2. Movies: Marty Feldman (Or How He Fell Into the Director's Chair) BY BART MILLS Los Angeles Times 22 May 1977: x29.
  3. "Movie Review". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-09-10.
  4. MOVIE CALL SHEET: Rudolph's Version of Isolation Murphy, Mary. Los Angeles Times 6 Feb 1976: e8.
  5. Foreign lesion MIlls, Bart. The Guardian 15 Sep 1976: 6.
  6. 'Marty Feldman': Say That With a Straight Face Levine, Joan. Los Angeles Times 23 May 1976: p39.
  7. Behind Marty Feldman's zany brand of comedy: 'I learn as I go' explains the film-TV star Writing skills Wilder's film Total involvement Acting start By David Sterritt. The Christian Science Monitor 26 May 1976: 26.
  8. MOVIE CALL SHEET: Universal Fetes 'Digby' Feldman Lee, Grant. Los Angeles Times 5 July 1976: e10.
  9. FILM CLIPS: Rich Man's Rich Heroine Kilday, Gregg. Los Angeles Times 24 July 1976: b7.
  10. Spain's rain: no jest Norman, Barry. The Guardian 17 Nov 1976: 8.
  11. "The Last Remake of Beau Geste". Trailers From Hell.
  12. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-01-07. Retrieved 2012-01-25.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. "Movie Review". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-09-10.
  14. Siskel, Gene (August 5, 1977). "'Geste' just not jest it should be". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 3.
  15. Murphy, Arthur D. (July 13, 1977). "Film Reviews: The Last Remake Of Beau Geste". Variety. 18.
  16. Champlin, Charles (July 15, 1977). "Less Here Than Meets the Eye". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 1.
  17. Arnold, Gary (July 15, 1977). "Marty Feldman 's Last Remake of Beau Geste': A Poor Jest". The New York Times. B9.
  18. Gilliatt, Penelope (July 25, 1977). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. 78.
  19. Milne, Tom (December 1977). "The Last Remake of Beau Geste". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 44 (527): 261.
  20. "In God We Trust". Trailers from Hell.
  21. "The Last Remake of Beau Geste ::DVD Movies Coming Soon:: Second Sight Films". Retrieved 2016-09-10.
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