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Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?

Who Is Killing The Great Chefs Of Europe?

Someone is murdering the best chefs in Europe. But who and why? And will our star be one of them? This is the mystery.

“The way in which the chefs are killed is one of the movie's many delights: They're cooked into their very own specialties (that makes the movie a double whodunit: Who done it, of course… and then how well were they done?). The murders lead to a twofold horror. A ghastly death awaits the victims, and there is unspeakable humiliation for those chefs who are apparently not great enough to be killed."
- Roger Ebert

This is the wonderful Jacqueline Bissett as the World's greatest dessert chef, Natasha O'Brien, and the very, very funny English stage veteran Robert Morley as London's most esteemed and arrogant food critic, Maximillian Vandeveer, in a very odd murder-mystery/comedy with some slasher tropes thrown in for good measure. I loved it when I was 10. I was crazy about Jacqueline Bissett even before I'd hit puberty. And even though I'm sure many of Morley's dry, rapier-like quips went over my head, I still found him very funny and oddly charming for a complete prick. I think I watched it a dozen times on HBO in, say, 1981. I haven't seen it since then, I have never discovered it streaming, so I finally bought the 2010 DVD release and settled in to revisit it.
To be honest, it’s not that great.
But then again, it’s not that bad either. A bit silly but diverting.
It’s weirdly like a European comedy. You know how they can be kind of silly in a way that American audiences would never accept in a movie that is not just farce. What I didn't realize, because I was 10, 11 years old, was that this movie is what is known as Farce. Once I understood that, I was able to settle in and just enjoy it for what it was.
Roger Ebert liked the film a good bit and was particularly fond of Morley's witticisms, a few of which I will share here:

Doctor: “Would you care to remove your overcoat?”
Vandeveer: “Why, is your diagnosis going to take us through a change of seasons?”

Vandeveer: “Doctor, how long have I got to live.”
Doctor: “That will depend entirely on you.”
Vandeveer: “I’m relieved to learn it will not depend upon YOU.”

Vandeveer: “Don’t tell me another cook’s been murdered. Who is it this time? Aunt Jemima?”

Honestly, some of the dialogue had already made me laugh out loud in my living room just 5 minutes in. Ebert suggested that Morley should be nominated for Best Supporting Actor for this performance.
If the movie has a drawback, it's probably George Segal being really odd and awkward throughout as the Ugly American ex-husband and how some of the more farcical scenes seem to come a bit out of nowhere (like when two chefs have a swordfight with loaves of French bread). There is also something off in the odd attempt to paint Natasha as a liberated woman by having her sleep with everyone she meets. I actually felt, based on the tone of the film, like this was well-intentioned but it ages oddly. Like, in some ways this is the most sexist movie I have seen in 20 years. Absolutely everyone Natasha meets tries to bed her immediately (though you can hardly blame them, it is Jackie Bissett). On the other hand, Natasha’s talent, revered professional-status, and sexual liberation seem like this was some kind of 1976 attempt at an anti-sexist, Liberated statement. Except that she actually faints when in extreme danger. That’s pretty lame. And the fact that Segal, who is clearly the Supporting character, gets top billing. Double lame.

Anyway, this was a fun little revisitation of a favorite from my youth, about as good as I expected it to be which was, frankly, good enough for a 1970s murder-mystery farce.

PS - It was amusing to see Vincent Cassell's father, Jean-Pierre Cassell, walk across a room wearing nothing but an apron. His performance was, shall we say... cheeky?