Mad About Men: Miranda returns for another fish-out-of-water adventure

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Mad About Men directed by Ralph ThomasMad About Men directed by Ralph Thomas

Mad About Men directed by Ralph ThomasWhen we last saw the mermaid Miranda, in the 1948 British fantasy film that bears her name, she was sitting on a rock in the middle of the ocean, bearing on her lap an infant merbaby, the sight of which was apparently meant to stun and amuse the viewer. Although the charming Miranda had almost caused the breakup of no fewer than three relationships in that film, she had not been intimate with any of the men involved (and really, how COULD she be?), and so … just whose baby was this? In hindsight, the baby was apparently hers as the result of a previous underwater fling, casting a whole new light on just why the frisky mermaid wanted one above-water adventure before becoming a mermom herself. Or perhaps she was merely merbabysitting in that final scene?

I suppose that we will never know for sure, as the sequel to Miranda, entitled Mad About Men, which was belatedly released six years later, never even alludes to the subject of maternity. Happily, however, it is a wonderful sequel, reuniting two of the previous film’s principals, Miranda herself (once again portrayed by the effortlessly charming Welsh actress Glynis Johns) and her eccentric caretaker, Nurse Carey (the great Margaret Rutherford, seven years before her first go at the Miss Marple character with which she would later be forever associated; 62 here, but still capable of performing some physical stunts, such as crawling on the floor and swimming).

In the film, Johns gets to play two roles, a great blessing for all her many fans. The first of those roles is Caroline Trewella, a pretty blonde gym teacher who goes on holiday to her ancestral home in Cornwall. Caroline is engaged to a stuffy and prim fussbudget named Ronald (well played by Peter Martyn), who stays behind in London. Once in her quaint seaside home, Caroline is startled one night to hear very strange sounds emanating from the basement, and goes to investigate. I call this a basement, but actually, it is more of an underground cavern that connects to the sea (no fear of THIS basement ever being flooded, that’s for sure!). In this cavern she discovers two very strange creatures: the simpleminded, redheaded mermaid called Berengaria (Dora Bryan), and her own exact lookalike, Miranda. The two, it seems, are distant relatives; one land based, one sea based. Miranda once again is desirous of having an adventure above water, while Caroline goes on a biking tour, and so the two hatch a very clever plot.

Miranda & Mad About Men - Mermaid Double Feature DVD

DOUBLE FEATURE!

Caroline pretends to have been injured in a gymnastic accident, and goes off on her tour, leaving in her place Miranda, once again ensconced in a wheelchair, her large telltale fin wrapped in a blanket. Once free to have fun, Miranda sets her sights on procuring a better fiancé for Caroline than the stuffy Ronald. She thus entices (effortlessly, as always) a local hunky-dude fisherman, Jeff Saunders (Donald Sinden), as well as the moustachioed Colonel Barclay Sutton (Nicholas Phipps), much to the chagrin of his fiancée, Barbara Davenport (Anne Crawford) … along the way also entrancing the local pawnbroker and dress vendor.

This sequel, it occurs to me, is very much the opposite of the original film. Whereas Miranda had been filmed in B&W, had featured only one mermaid, and had involved that one mermaid’s flirtatious actions almost causing three couples to break up, the sequel was filmed in beautiful color (the scenery of the Cornish coast looks very nice, indeed), features twice as many mermaids, and spotlights Miranda trying to play matchmaker and bring people together. Once again, the script was provided by Peter Blackmore, the author of the original Miranda play, and once again, it is a sparkling and witty one; hence, Miranda says of her previous adventure on land, “I had a whale of a time,” and later, of her own singing, “I’ve never had any trouble with my scales.” The sequel features more in the way of silly humor, thanks in large part to the antics of that ditzy Berengaria, culminating in a finale that almost seems lifted from the Three Stooges short “Micro-Phonies.”

Fortunately, director Ralph Thomas, who would go on to direct one of my favorite Bond pastiches, Deadlier Than the Male, elicits terrific performances from all his players. But once again, it is Glynis Johns who steals the show here with her effortless charm and underrated beauty, shown to great effect in lustrous color. She is remarkably appealing, sexy and seductive as the playful Miranda, despite being the literal fish out of water, and fresh and feisty as the more conservative Caroline. I’m sure I am echoing the thoughts of all her many fans when I say that when it comes to Glynis Johns, the more of her, the better, and Mad About Men provides a double showcase for her abundant charms. This is a delightful fantasy that comes more than highly recommended, indeed. Still, I can’t stop wondering about that little merbaby…


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SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough’s finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a “misspent youth” of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship — although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century — and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror… but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle “ferbs54.” Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club….

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2 comments

  1. I have never heard of these movies, but they sound delightful! My entire view of Glynis Johns is based on Mary Poppins. It sounds like I owe it to her to check out these movies.

    • sandy ferber /

      I’d never heard of them either, until TCM showed them recently, but they really are chsrming, Tadiana. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did….

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