Where is Parsifal? Misplaced film from BFI's 75 Most Wanted
September 2, 2013 2:06 PM   Subscribe

In 1983, the film Where is Parsifal? was screened at Cannes and then it disappeared, more or less. BFI included it on their list of 75 most wanted films. The Telegraph summarized the "lost" title as "a farce loosely based on Molière’s Tartuffe, whose turbocharged cast includes Tony Curtis, Orson Welles and Donald Pleasence," but BFI noted that "the reviews were generally dreadful." In reality, the film wasn't so much lost as it was misplaced and/or over-looked. It has been available in Australia on VHS, and director Henri Helman kindly donated his personal 35mm print, with French subtitles, to be preserved in the BFI archive. But perhaps more interesting than the "lost" status of the movie is the people involved in its creation.

"Team" Salkind was behind this film, earning a blip of a mention in the glowing review of Alexander Salkind's life and times, from a fansite for Santa Clause: The Movie (1985). The memorial piece notes that:
[Where is Parsifal?] was Alexander and [his son] Ilya's only 'vanity project', in that the script had been conceived and written by Berta Salkind for the expressed purpose of casting herself in the lead female role.
To date, however, this lively piece of satire has never been released theatrically in the U.S.; for various reasons, it would be one of at least two Salkind pictures from the twilight of his era to bear that distinction, the other being 1990's The Rainbow Thief.
It should be noted that this was a period after the peak of the Family Salkind, coming a decade after the release of The Three Musketeers, and five years since Superman: The Movie. It should also be noted that legacy of The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers lead to another legacy for the Salkinds: the "Salkind Clause" included in Screen Actors Guild contracts, to clarify the number of films being produced, and to ensure the actors are paid accordingly.

Another person who had fallen from greatness was involved in Parsifal: Terence Young, noted director of the first four James Bond films, and infamous for his later directorial duties. Before BFI received their print of the film, all they had were pressbooks, which listed the film as "A Terence Young Production". His exact role is unclear, but some note there is a possible link between Young and the duping of Orson Welles into thinking that his (brief) participation in the film would ensure the producers' support of Welles' version of King Lear. Tony Curtis spoke well of his experience working with Welles (Google books preview), but Curtis also admitted he "spent a lot of time driving around at night looking for cocaine ... using coke to numb myself to the sad state of my career."

If you are intrigued by the description of the film thus far, you can actually stream it from Netflix or Amazon, but note 1) the PG rating somehow overlooks the scantily clad romp in the beginning, and the topless dancing around the 55 minute mark, and 2) that Netflix viewers are harsher than IMDb voters, as the current Netflix rating is 1.5 out of 5, while the IMDb rating is 5.3 out of 10. Or you can skip the viewing and read this long review of the movie on the Good Efficient Butchery blog, which provides more context, for example noting that this was Eric Estrada's first feature film role, following his success in CHiPS, and that he never fared well in film since this.
posted by filthy light thief (3 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
What a post!
posted by timshel at 2:09 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I neglected to note that the film's plot (selling a sky-writing laser invention, which Parsifal purchased from the true inventor) is a red herring to what has been considered to be a biographical film on the state of the Salkind family in this era. Seen in that light, it's a bit more interesting, but still not great.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:12 PM on September 2, 2013

Didn't realize that The Rainbow Thief hadn't been released theatrically in the U.S., since I'm pretty sure I saw it at Film In the Cities at Jerome Hill Theater in St. Paul around 1990. Or maybe I'm just confusing having seen Santa Sangre there. Also didn't realize The Rainbow Thief had been disowned by Jodorowsky.
posted by larrybob at 2:04 PM on September 3, 2013

« Older Beasts of the Past   |   Breaking News! Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments