(Air Date: Week Of 03/12/97)
"Gentlemen Don't Eat Poets" is a deliciously bizarre bundle of wicked, wicked fun. Within its structure of an allegory on the evils of the class system in post-war Britain, it creates a world whose morality is neither better nor worse than our own, merely different. And about that allegory, it's deftly played, not in-your-face, like, say "The Ruling Class" was.
The story opens with a butler, Fledge, and his housekeeper wife joining the staff of anything but stately Crook Manor. Let me put it this way, snakes join the family in the bath and no one in this bastion of upper crust eccentricity much notices. Fledge reeks of menace and eroticism beneath a silky professional demeanor; the Mrs. who looks like a used tea-towel, drinks her way to a better world. The couple above stairs are no prize, either. Sir Hugo is a revisionist paleontologist, more interested in dinosaurs than his wife, and she's looking for someone to sweep the cobwebs from the nuptial bed. Somehow, though, they've managed to produce an exemplary, if somewhat morbid, daughter, Cleo. She dreams of her poet-lover, Sidney, who has the agonizingly prophetic surname of Giblet. In no time at all, Sir Hugo is fuming over his daughter's choice of fiance, Lady Harriet is dallying in the game room with Fledge, and poor Cleo is fretting over the disappearance of Sidney and her bicycle. What she doesn't know is that Sidney fled after Fledge helpfully acquainted him with his true sexual preference. A good butler, it would seem, is all things to all people. Alas, Sidney's precipitous departure was not just from Crook Manor, but from this vale of tears as well, as the discovery of his butchered and gnawed bones amply demonstrates.
I should warn you that this film contains some decidedly unappetizing images. You're better off eating before, not after seeing it, and vegetarians are likely to have a harder time than most. Still, it's no excuse to miss this whodunnit like no other.
"Gentelmen Don't Eat Poets" may have one of the more unfortunate titles of recent memory. But I can forgive a film anything when it constantly surprises me, especially when it makes me laugh when I'd least expect to.
Copyright 1997 Andrea Chase
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