Stephen Fry Film Compared to Waugh

The Daily Mirror in a review of the film adaptation of Stephen Fry’s 1994 novel The Hippopotamus describe it as a “mildly successful hybrid of a film noir detective story and the novels of Evelyn Waugh.” They don’t much like what they see, however:

Fry’s over-bearing smug pomposity weighs down every line of dialogue…full of cruel asides and flowery language, which delights in public schoolboy humour and obsesses over bodily fluids and functions…Fry previously directed a big-screen adaptation of Waugh’s Vile Bodies, called Bright Young Things. And there, as here, he fails to make us care about his herd of posh idiots. 

A US website specializing in British TV imports ( was kinder to the BBC’s recent adaptation of Decline and Fall. Their reviewer was:

…a little worried they would have trouble adapting the book because it’s filled with some rather dated and appalling racism. But they managed to work it into the show perfectly and lampoon it at the same time. I’m a huge fan of the 1920’s era (in both British and American history), so I’m really pleased with any show that takes place during the period. Acorn’s Decline and Fall is a delight, and we can heartily recommend watching it.

Finally, in another bit of film news with a Waugh twist, Nick Pinkerton writing in Artforum makes this comparison in a feature length article about filmmaker Ernst Lubitsch:

If Lubitsch had a political ethos, it might have been described by a musing which another of the funniest men who ever lived, Evelyn Waugh, gave to his creation Ambrose Silk: “It is a curious thing, he thought, that every creed promises a paradise that will be absolutely uninhabitable for anyone of civilized taste.”

The quote comes from Put Out More Flags (Penguin, p. 60). The article is published in connection with a revival of Lubitsch’s films (“The Lubitsch Touch”) in New York at the Film Forum through 15 June.

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