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  If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium Wish You Were Here...?
Year: 1969
Director: Mel Stuart
Stars: Ian McShane, Suzanne Pleshette, Vittorio De Sica, Murray Hamilton, Sandy Baron, Michael Constantine, Pamela Britton, Norman Fell, Reva Rose, Hilarie Thompson, Luke Halpin, Donovan, Marty Ingels, Mildred Natwick, Peggy Cass, Aubrey Morris
Genre: Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: World-Wind Tours whisk American tourists from their homeland across the Atlantic to Europe, specialising in taking them on whistle stop visits to various countries in the space of a couple of weeks or so. This group are visiting nine countries in eighteen days, and include anyone from middle-aged couples to hopeful bachelors, even families are welcome, but they all want a taste of Europe (well, most of them). The tour guide is Charlie Cartwright (Ian McShane), who is late for their first meeting thanks to dallying with his casual girlfriend a little too long, but on this trip he might just surprise himself, as he thinks of himself as a womaniser, yet what if he met someone he really fell for?

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium was not producer David Wolper's biggest hit, as a couple of years later he and the director of this, Mel Stuart, were hard at work on an adaptation of Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory which as the years rolled by became their most famous endeavour. But this, similarly filmed in European locations despite being an American film, has become a cult movie too, though on nothing like the same scale, for it was and remains a frothy confection that somehow stays in the memory despite not being the funniest comedy around, or indeed the most swooning romance. Maybe it is down to how that romance is resolved.

Before we got to that point, we were able to enjoy a host of character actors strut their stuff in a variety of authentic locations: no cheating by shooting in a studio in front of a back projection here, that was for sure. The journey began in Charlie's native London, the sightseeing around there confirming your suspicion this was as much a travelogue as it was any other kind of entertainment, but for a bit of fluff it was perfectly diverting largely thanks to its refusal to settle in one place for very long, as that peripatetic plot dictated. This looked to be as nice a holiday for the cast as it was intended to be for the audiences watching it, audiences who potentially had never been abroad.

As the sixties turned into the seventies, package holidays became cheaper and taking a jaunt to the Continent, or any other tourist trap on the planet, was not such an outrageous proposition, so Wolper had devised this movie to capitalise on this new curiosity about the wider world, or the maxim that a change was as good as a rest, at any rate. By refusing to stick with any one place for long, we could kid ourselves that watching this would give us a decent impression of what these countries and their people were like, and this was a lot more benevolent in its attitudes than something like National Lampoon's European Vacation or Eurotrip which appeared in theatres decades later. That could have been because the interest was more on the tourists than the various natives.

Most of the cast had their scene or two to shine, presumably another reason why they signed up, so Sandy Baron almost falls victim to a forced marriage in Venice, and Norman Fell loses his wife to a Japanese tour, and Murray Hamilton's nineteen-year old daughter Hilarie Thompson gets a romance of her own with hippy Luke Halpin, despite his disapproval. But running through this was the blossoming relationship between Charlie and Suzanne Pleshette as Samantha, an independent woman seeking some me time on vacation to get her head straight, and reluctantly admitting there is an attraction here that she is not sure she wants to act upon. It was nothing too heavy, and the stars had a degree of chemistry (you can see why Charlie would be smitten, for sure), but amidst the celebrity cameos and landmarks there was a dash of humanity that was quite charming. That ending... you can't be certain they were planning a sequel, probably not, but it would have been nice to catch up. OK, there was a TV movie sequel in 1987, but it was next to nothing to do with the original. Music by Walter Scharf, with songs by Donovan (one of the cameos).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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