UK / 1959
Writers and Directors: Roy Boulting, Jeffrey Dell
Cast: Terry-Thomas, Peter Sellers, Thorley Walters, Ian Bannen, Miles Malleson, Raymond Huntley, Luciana Paoluzzi, John Le Mesurier
In this wild and witty comedy, producers John and Roy Boulting turned their mordant eyes on the Foreign Office but with hugely entertaining sideswipes at other targets, including politicians, the army, the old-school-tie-connection, the Americans, the Russians, the British Council, the media and the United Nations.
Terry-Thomas, perfectly cast as the eponymous Carlton-Browne, is the world’s worst diplomat, who is safely back-watered in the allegedly harmless corner of the Foreign Office known as “miscellaneous territories”. Unfortunately, the discovery of rich mineral deposits in the long forgotten former British colony of Gallardia results in Carlton-Browne being sent to the island to strengthen Anglo-Gallardian relations. It is not long, however, before his feeble handling of the situation antagonises young king Loris (Ian Bannen) and sees him constantly falling foul of the oily, devious Prime Minister Amphibulos (Peter Sellers). Unrest in the island finally leads to it being partitioned by the United Nations. Again Carlton-Browne blunders, allying himself with the faction without the mineral deposits. He is the catalyst for further disasters, including a revolution that, amazingly, ends with Carlton-Browne being decorated for his services to international peace and unity.
The film was selected to be shown at the 1959 Moscow Film Festival but The Times reported Roy Boulting as saying he had heard the Foreign Office had intervened over the choice. “There is no question of an intervention,” said a Foreign Office official, quoted in The Times. Boulting, asked to comment, said the film was “a gentle dig at some of our modern stupidities.”