The Thirteen Chairs

The Thirteen Chairs (12 + 1 – original title and Italian release title) is a 1969 comedy film directed by Nicolas Gessner and Luciano Lucignani and starring Sharon Tate, Vittorio Gassman, Orson Welles, Vittorio De Sica, and Tim Brooke-Taylor. It was based on the 1928 satirical novel The Twelve Chairs by Soviet authors Ilf and Petrov, which has been adapted many times (including a 1970 version directed by Mel Brooks).

The Thirteen Chairs
French theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by
Written by
Based onDvenadtsat stulyev (The Twelve Chairs)
by Ilya Ilf and Yevgeni Petrov
Starring
Music by
CinematographyGiuseppe Ruzzolini
Edited byGiancarlo Cappelli
Distributed byAVCO Embassy Pictures
Release date
  • 7 October 1969 (1969-10-07) (Italy)
  • 8 July 1970 (1970-07-08) (France)
Running time
94 minutes
Country
  • Italy
  • France
LanguageEnglish

Plot

Mario Beretti (Vittorio Gassman) is a young Italian-American barber. He runs a barber shop located near a construction site that boasts few customers. His life reaches a turning point when he is notified of the death of his aunt living in England, who named him her sole heir.

Mario rushes to England and learns that his inheritance consists of not much; only thirteen antique chairs that have a certain value. He sells them in order to cover his transportation costs, but soon learns from his aunt's Laura last message that inside one of the chairs is a fortune in jewels. He tries to buy back the chairs, but is unsuccessful in doing so. With the help of lovely American antiques dealer Pat (Sharon Tate), working in the antiques shop in front of Aunt Laura's house, where he sold the chairs, the two then set out on a bizarre quest to track down the chairs that takes them from London to Paris and to Rome. Along the way, they meet a bunch of equally bizarre characters, including the driver of a furniture moving van named Albert (Terry-Thomas); a prostitute named Judy (Mylène Demongeot); Maurice (Orson Welles), the leader of a traveling theater company that stages a poor version of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; the Italian entrepreneur Carlo Di Seta (Vittorio De Sica); and his vivacious daughter Stefanella (Ottavia Piccolo).

The bizarre chase ends in Rome, where the chair containing the money finds its way into a truck and is collected by nuns who auction it off to charity. With nothing much left to do as a result of the failure of his quest, Mario travels back to New York City by ship as Pat sees him off and waves goodbye to him.

The film ends with Mario returning to New York City and to his barber shop. His friends over at the other (and more lavish) shop join him, as do two construction workers and his last customer Randomhouse (Lionel Jeffries). It is there that Mario makes a strange discovery: shortly before his departure for Europe, he invented a way to make hair regrow miraculously. He then laughs ecstatically over his discovery.

Cast

Production and release

The Thirteen Chairs was filmed from February–May 1969. Orson Welles and Tim Brooke-Taylor had their scenes filmed during a break from shooting Welles' comedic film One Man Band. Brooke-Taylor recalled,

Because the script for Sharon Tate's scenes called for several semi-nude scenes, the director arranged to film those scenes first. As filming (and her pregnancy) progressed, the director obscured Tate's stomach with large purses and scarves. This is most apparent in the scene following her ride in the furniture mover's van.

The Thirteen Chairs was Sharon Tate's final film, with many people saying that she had a knack for comedy and were excited for her next film contract (equal to over $1,000,000 in today’s money).

Home media

The film was released through rental only by Force Video in 1986 under the Thirteen Chairs name, and again a year later by Continental Video, under the original 12 + 1 name. On 12 March 2008 the film was released on DVD in Italy by 01 Distribution. This version is in Italian, lacks English subtitles, and doesn't include an English audio track.

References

  1. Seely, Michael (August 26, 2017). ""When the Goodies met Orson Welles."". We Are Cult.
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