Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe And Find True Happiness?

Dir: Anthony Newley, 1969


A top contender for the most obscure title ever, Anthony Newley’s semi-autobiographical movie is a truly bizarre and esoteric venture into the mind of someone who has so much imagination, but rarely had the opportunity to exercise it.

Having said that, this ludicrously named film is like oil and water. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t but none mixes well. It’s Newley’s chance to over indulge in pretension.

Filled with popular entertainers of the time, the film is of a certain interest to British viewers as it features a young Bruce Forsyth as Uncle Limelight. Singing and tap dancing his way through the scene, Forsyth displays his impressive footwork, deftly showing why he was picked for Strictly Come Dancing. 

Rounding out the cast of cameos, is a host of faces familiar to American audiences. Comedian Milton Berne is rather good as Goodtime Eddie Filth, a sleazy agent with a devilish demeanour trying to get Merkin on the books.

On the other hand, several of the cast don’t really fit the trippy proceedings. George Jessens is unsuitably out of place as an angel-like figment of Heironymus’s imagination. More wooden than a fence, Jessens can’t act or tell a joke to save his life, regardless of how bad the joke is.

Newley’s film, falls into that LSD, acid or whatever type of film that came to prominence in the sixties and seventies. The bizarre stylings and fractured narrative, are reminiscent of a experimental student film. There is echoes of Kenneth Anger and other directors of that ilk. Clearly, Newley was inspired by noted filmmakers such as Ingmar Bergman with a not-so-subtle nod to The Seventh Seal. 

It’s difficult to see what Anthony Newley was getting at, as the comedy falls flat and is too out there to be funny. A particularly odd sketch, concerns a Princess falling in love with a donkey and hints at bestiality. The scene doesn’t belong, and has nothing to do with the autobiographical nature of the film.

But, you have to give praise where it’s due and, as a musical, some of the numbers are really quite catchy but forgettable in the long run.

On its original release, the film received an ‘X’ rating in both Britain and America. The British print was cut by the censors, and an edited ‘R’ version was eventually shown in US cinemas. A rather rare film, it has never been re-released or distributed on any home video format. Aside from the occasional T.V. showing, Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe And Find True Happiness? remains a much forgotten curio.

Not brilliant, but never boring.



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