If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium Mel Stuart

This 1969 comedy is distinguished by two things: one of the most parodied titles in the history of film and the fact that nobody seems to remember anything else about it. But though it’s a shotgun marriage of mod technique and dinner theatre scripting, that uneasy mixture makes it far more compelling than latter-day square cinema. The narrative springboard is a package European tour attended by a variety of ugly Americans. There are complainers, would-be lotharios, excitable veterans and horny teenagers but mostly there’s the awkward romance between career woman Suzanne Pleshette and tour guide Ian McShane. Pleshette rebuffs the advances of ladies man McShane but this is a comedy, and Hollywood, and love conquering all and whatnot. Much of the humour doesn’t quite take. Some of the jokes (like McShane’s pun-strewn commentary) are pretty feeble, while others (like the creepy tourist who steals hotel property) aren’t given the right conceptual spin. And it’s quite clear that the whole thing is aimed at a demographic that doesn’t have much of a stake in watching a movie that’s trying. Still, its cast of truly unappealing Yanks having a wonderfully miserable time would never see the light of day now. Ditto its eyeball-puncturing editing that creatively misuses French new wave tactics in an incongruously conservative setting. It doesn’t quite succeed on its own terms but it’s a compelling thing that keeps you watching despite (or because of) its bizarre fumbles and gauche ambitions. Belgium is living proof that it’s better to make a lazy movie in a period of great international cinema, as the good stuff affects the lowliest of films no matter how wrong the borrowing. (MGM)