Scoop (1987)

“The Tropics gets ’em that way.”

In a case of mistaken identity, a naive young columnist for The Daily Beast is sent to cover a war in Ishmaelia. A confused editor, Mr. Salter (Denholm Elliott) acting on the orders of his raving, deranged newspaper publisher, Lord Copper (Donald Pleasence) demands William Boot (Michael Mahoney) cover the war front. Boot normally writes about British country life, but he’s too mild-mannered and polite to offer more than a whimper and a feeble protest when he’s ordered overseas. Boot is soon up to his neck in intrigue. All the foreign journalists are confined to the country’s capital, and they are not allowed to leave without the express permission of the Minister of Propaganda. The journalists all stick together, drinking and trying to pass time, but they watch each other jealously for signs that someone may have a story to send home. The illustrious Sir Hitchcock–who works for The Daily Brute–is noticeably absent, and this sends the reporters on an insane quest into the desert.

Scoop was made for British television and is based on the Evelyn Waugh satiric novel. The story is full of the most wonderfully bizarre characters. There’s an insane Swedish diplomat who goes berserk when he drinks too much Absinthe, the mysterious Mr. Baldwin (Herbert Lom), and a German woman who claims she somehow or another lost her husband. The guileless William Boot appears to be completely out-of-his-depth in the middle of all this nefariousness.

Some of the funniest scenes take place at the Boot Manor. Life at Boot Manor is in complete contrast to the anarchy of everyday Ishmaelia. Boot’s relatives are all completely dotty, and it’s clear that a lifetime of living in Boot Manor has more than equipped Boot with the survival skills necessary to cope with a mere revolution. Donald Pleasence as Lord Copper delivers an outstanding performance when he gives his ‘script for war’ speech to poor Boot. Fans of Waugh’s humour should delight in this DVD. Special features include a section on Waugh. If you enjoy this film, I also recommend A Handful of Dust.

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