Shirley MacLaine and Richard Attenborough give the World Quite a lift



Mr. Blossom has devoted his life to supporting the ladies.  Although his successful brassiere company is moving and shaking, he’s doing what he can to keep swingin’ London firmly secure, one customer at a time.  Though his place of business is populated with a steady parade of bra-clad models, it’s all entirely practical.  Mr. Blossom, as played by Richard Attenborough (Jurassic Park), is every bit the dithering idealist.  And so it goes in the frozen-in-amber 1968 comedy, The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom.

Understandably, Mr. Blossom’s wife (Shirley MacLaine) is skeptical if not outright suspicious of his lack of libido at home.  When one of his in-house repairmen drops by to fix her sewing machine, she casually inquires as to whether he might be spending, ahem, extra time with the models at work.  Rest assured; Mr. Blossom is a sexless idealist of the previous generation.  Tweed-heavy wardrobe, colonialist mustache, a jolly waddle, and the most glad-faced stiff upper lip anyone’s ever seen.  For a gentleman so up in his own head about the magnificence of women, one might also expect that he has a pulse.  Not really, though!  He’s a busy fellow; he’s got a world-altering “Universal Brassiere” to perfect.

Meanwhile back at home (the most densely and brightly decorated dwelling around.  Austin Powers would approve, baby!  Yeah!), that sewing machine repairman (James Booth) not only never leaves, he takes up residence in the attic.  He also takes up with Mrs. Blossom, conveniently fulfilling her heretofore (ahem) unfulfilled needs.  The morality of the situation is about as rickety as the attic’s floorboards (“Did you hear a noise coming above, dear…?”), but the presentation of everything is as chaste as could be.  Perhaps too chaste, really.  What we’ve got ‘ere are two protagonists caught up in an off-screen affair while Mr. Blossom (Third protagonist?  Well-meaning antagonist?  Who can tell?) tends to the world’s bosoms.  There’s nothing sexy about the movie, but it sure is crazy-colorful, 1968-style.

Remastered beautifully in HD by its native Paramount Pictures from a 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative, KL Studio Classics’ Blu-ray truly pops like the Pop Art-era museum piece that the movie is.  Seriously, when a film from the late ‘60s is this colorful and this off-kilter and this swingin’, one can’t help but assume that Peter Sellers will turn up.  Alas, he does not.  And, like film historian/filmmaker Daniel Kremer states on his newly recorded audio commentary for this movie, I too am well aware that I’ve lapsed into repetition regarding the “visually inventive” and “color forward” quality of The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom.  (Those are Kremer’s terms, well tossed about by him).  Other than trailers and optional English subtitles, Kremer’s guided track is the only bonus feature on this disc.  Which is fine, as director Joseph McGrath’s film has long languished as a largely forgotten relic of a particularly far-out-by-design moment in time. 

Is there more to The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom than that?  It seems like it, but the emotionally removed obtuseness of it all keeps the whole of it at arm’s length.  Again, it’s that ol’ stiff upper lip (albeit skewered for the newfangled sophisticates and so forth) of Mr. Blossom more or less dominating the proceedings.  Importantly, it’s James Booth’s attic-dwelling boy-toy who tips this whole affair into magical realism.  When Mrs. Blossom travels to the far corners of the world, he turns up, incognito, to help her along.  At home, he amasses a collection of matching how-to manuals, enabling him to learn, build, and do just about anything.  His secret presence makes Mrs. Blossom satisfied and Mr. Blossom even wealthier.  The expressionless quality of the movie, however, completely wastes the empathic qualities of Shirley MacLaine.

For some, it’s the two overly committed detectives (a wild-eyed Freddie Jones and Willie Rushton) that salvage this uneven stroll of a flick.  That’s as valid as anything.  Jones is the only one in it who demonstrates a pulse.  It can’t be said that The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom lacks the support it needs, but there’s also no bounce in its step- and there should be.  Even when the story floats into outrageous mode at the end, we’ve been far too cooped up to truly enjoy the greatly inflated momentary lift it brings to the world.