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The Comedians (1967)

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The Comedians (1967)

aka The Comedians

"They lie, they cheat, they destroy… they even try to love"

Directed By: 
Written By:  Writer details not available
Details: 152 mins · English, French, Spanish, Haitian Creole French


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Small Brown
Small Martha Pineda
Small Major H. O. Jones
Small Mrs. Smith
No_movie_poster Henri Philipot
Small Dr. Magiot
Small Smith
No_movie_poster Captain Concasseur
Small Marie Therese
Small Michel
Small Petit Pierre
Small Mrs. Philipot
Small Ambassador Manuel Pineda
No_movie_poster Joseph


No_movie_poster Peter Glenville Director
No_movie_poster Peter Glenville Production
No_movie_poster Graham Greene Other
No_movie_poster Graham Greene Story Contributor
No_movie_poster Françoise Javet Editing


"They lie, they cheat, they destroy… they even try to love"


A ship arrives in port with four passengers: Major H. O. Jones (Alec Guinness), a British businessman with a letter of invitation to do business with the government; an elderly American couple, Mr and Mrs Smith (Paul Ford and Lillian Gish) who have the idea of investing in the nation to set up a vegetarian complex for education and nutrition for the locals; and the central character, a cynical, washed-up individual named Brown, portrayed by Richard Burton.

Upon arrival Major Jones presents his credentials to Captain Concasseur (Raymond St. Jacques), a law enforcement officer, who notices that the official who invited Jones has been deposed and imprisoned. Concasseur and his men rough up and imprison Jones.

Brown has been bequeathed a hotel in the capital from his late British mother but has been unable to sell it in his trip to New York. Brown also has an ongoing affair with Martha (Elizabeth Taylor), the German-born wife of the Uruguayan ambassador to Haiti Pineda (Peter Ustinov). When Martha and Brown have an argument, Brown goes to Mere Catherine's brothel where he discovers that not only has Jones been released, but he's a guest of Captain Concasseur and is being treated to enjoying the hospitality of Brown's favourite tart, Marie Therese (Cicely Tyson).

Jones has gained the favour of the new regime who are keen to receive a supply of arms that they have paid a down payment on. Jones claims the weapons are impounded in a warehouse in Miami, but the weapons may be imaginary and a confidence trick by Jones. The government will not allow Jones to leave the island until they are sure the weapons exist.

Mr Smith, a former Vegetarian Party candidate for the Presidency of the United States against Harry S. Truman, is given a tour of the new capital, an empty shambles called Duvalierville. During the evening he and Mrs Smith follow a local procession that they believe is a religious ceremony but turns out to be an audience for executions by firing squad. The evening's fun and frivolities continue as Captain Concasseur and his men enter Brown's hotel and beat him up until Mrs Smith bluffs the thugs into leaving by announcing that she will inform her husband, the American Presidential Candidate. The Smiths depart the next day.

Brown watches as the Duvalier regime seeks to put down any dissent with an iron fist. He becomes friends with Dr. Magiot (James Earl Jones), the rebel leader.

As Brown becomes a reluctant participant in the planned insurrection, the rebels recruit Major Jones to provide military leadership. Jones has been regaling the other expatriates with his tales of heroism as a commando officer in the Burma Campaign that Brown does not quite believe. Brown hosts a meeting of the group, including Magiot, Jones, and Ambassador Pineda. But trouble ensues soon thereafter – Duvalier’s spies from the Tonton Macoute are watching Brown’s Hotel Trianon and his every step.

The day after the meeting, three assassins confront Magiot while he’s performing surgery, and cut his throat with a scalpel knife in the operating theatre. Upon learning of the brutal murder, Brown reluctantly agrees to drive Jones, who escapes by dressing as Brown's female cook wearing drag and blackface, into the countryside to the rebel base under the cover of night. When picking him up that evening, he realizes that Jones has apparently become involved with Martha Pineda. Brown leaves town with him in a jealous rage, and the inebriated Jones makes matters worse by bragging about his conquest. Driving carelessly up the treacherous, winding road, Brown hits an embankment and breaks the car’s front axle. The two continue their journey on foot, arriving at a remote cemetery, the designated meeting point, too late. They settle in for the night with Jones admitting that his jungle war stories were total fabrication; his wartime career was running a cinema in India.

In the morning, the omnipresent Captain Concasseur and Tonton Macoute accost Brown as he tries to find rebels in the area. They demand to know where Jones is, but Brown denies that the Major is there. As soon as Brown has finished speaking, a sleepy Jones approaches, unaware of the Macoute’s presence. The two command him to stop, but Jones turns around and runs uphill into the cemetery. They open fire, killing Jones. Then they order Brown to get into their jeep with them. As he does so, shots from rebels ring out, and the two drop dead.

Upon being asked about Major Jones, Brown tells the two rebels in dismay: "You arrived two minutes too late." He then shows them the body of Jones. The two rebels then plead with Brown to assume the role of Jones, seeing this as the only hope they have left. Brown hesitates, commenting that he is no military man. But he finally relents after being asked whether he wants to continue living like this.

After a long walk, the three meet up with a small, ragtag group of poorly equipped rebels. The group buys the deception, believing that Brown is Jones, and he gives a cynical, taunting speech, apparently without being understood, since the rebels speak French and he English.

The camera then cuts to the Pinedas, as they are about to leave the island. Petit Pierre (Roscoe Lee Browne), a journalist friend of Brown, sees them off, telling them about a battle between government troops and rebels, and stating that two rebels have been killed noting that one of the rebels was "unidentified". The Pinedas’ plane takes off, and Martha notices smoke on a hillside of the island.

The question whether Brown has survived the skirmish remains unanswered, although Petit Pierre's cryptic remarks on the two rebels killed in the recent battle between government forces and rebels seem to indicate that Brown was the unidentified rebel who was killed in the fighting.

Release Dates:

Theatrical : 1967-10-31 : United States of America

Theatrical : 1967-12-21 : West Germany

Theatrical : 1968-01-18 : United Kingdom

Theatrical : 1968-02-16 : Finland

Theatrical : 1968-03-22 : Sweden

Theatrical : 1968-04-22 : Denmark

Theatrical : 1969-09-19 : Portugal

Theatrical : Turkey

Television : 1986-05-19 : German Democratic Republic