The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It (1977) Poster

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England's version of Police Squad
caspian197825 January 2004
For 1975, this was it! A typical John Cleese spoof that is meant for laughs. Connie Booth is added to the cast alongside her then husband Cleese. A surprise addition of the cast is late actor Arthur Lowe who has more laughs than Cleese. A strong supporting actor from other films such as IF... and The Ruling Class, Lowe is perfect as the stupid but love able side kick. For just a 55 minute feature, The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know it is a quick, yet fun ride that pokes fun at just about everything "detective like" in English and American media. Holmes, Bond, Columbo, etc.
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Quirky laughs in a cheap film
Josef Tura-216 September 1999
You can do a lot with a little cash. Blair Witch proved that. This film supports it. It is no more than a sitcom in length and complexity. However, because it has John Cleese as Sherlock Holmes it manages to be hilarious even on a budget that couldn't afford a shoestring. The highlight of this film is Arthur Lowe as the sincere, bumbling Watson, his dimness and slowness foils Cleese's quick-tempered wit. If you ever run across the film watch it for a quirky laugh or two.
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Diverse Views Disguise Classic British Comedy
jdbuzz9 December 2009
It has been so many years since I saw this but I do feel compelled to defend this gem against those who lambast it.

It is interesting and unusual to observe the diversity of opinion here. That is what humour does I suppose. It is subjective. It either charges through your funny bone at 60,000 volts or it leaves you cold and wondering why you gave it the time.

This show has some of Britain's best comic actors put together in a story that is silly and irreverent and the outcome is hilarious. The dialogue and visual comedy is beautifully delivered and the two leads (Cleese and Lowe) are superb together. This was made for them.

I can't really say anymore other than to implore you to find this and watch it. You won't be disappointed and in a world devoid of genteel humour, this is a classic inane and harmless piece of comedic brilliance.
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A little-known classic
leemrmg22 November 2005
If you enjoy Cleese & all the British 'Pythonesque' humour of the time, then this little gem is absolutely hilarious.

Arthur Lowe is a real treat!

I saw this with friends on TV when it first came out, and its classic quotes have formed a part of our jokes for 30 years, and will do forever! I have it on tape and it is continually appreciated.

Perhaps some reviewers are taking it too seriously.

I can't believe it is now only available in the US (NTSC of course), and not in UK, where it should be an essential part of the history of British humour!!
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A strange case, indeed
craigjclark11 August 2003
Not the most successful television project John Cleese ever did, "Strange Case" has the feel of a first draft that was rushed into production before any revisions could be made. There are some silly ideas throughout and even a few clever ones, but the story as a whole unfortunately doesn't add up to much.

Arthur Lowe is a hoot, though, as Dr. Watson, bionic bits and all. "Good Lord."
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An minor comedy gem, screamingly funny at some points
lemon_magic11 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I'm not a John Cleese completist (although I thought "Fawlty Towers was brilliant), but I am a fan, and when I saw this sitting, neglected, on a shelf at my local Blockbuster, I decided to give it a try. What I got was a wonderful surprise, and one of the funniest 50 minute viewing experiences I've ever had. The writing is typical English "goon show" schtick. In fact, as an audio skit, this wouldn't be out of place on a "Firesign Theater" album. But the execution and timing is spot on and this elevates "Strange Case" into the kind of jaw-dropping performance that can create lifelong British comedy fanatics.

The Brits have a gift for combining broadly satirical lampoons with closely observed "tics" of character and timing, and the creators use both to good effect here. Cleese's portrayal of "Holmes" seems to owe much to the Arkin's and Seller's "Inspector Clouseau"; however Cleese has such a knack for physical comedy that he more than holds his own. But the unexpected treat here is Arthur Lowe, who plays "Watson" as an genial but invincibly uncomprehending imbecile with such superb timing and delivery that he becomes the best aspect of the film. I'd never heard of Lowe before this (his background seems to be vaudeville and musical theater), but he justifies his entire career with this performance as far as I'm concerned.

Some people might not care for "Strange Case...", especially if British whimsy isn't their "cuppa tea". But I am extremely glad I got to see this before it vanished from sight.
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One hour skit from John Cleese minus M. Python
ksf-228 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Possible Spoiler - In what is probably the world's longest movie title, The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It, someone is killing all the world famous figures and detectives. They call in Arthur Sherlock Holmes (Cleese) to get to the bottom of it. There are some great, funny scenes, like near the beginning, with those recognize-able folks around the conference table: Denholm Elliot (the butler from Trading Places) and Josephine Tewson (Elizabeth, the neighbor from Keeping up Appearances) who gets into arguments with the computer. Even the big reveal at the end is QUITE similar to Neil Simon's Murder By Death, which had just come out the year before. About halfway through, it gets quite silly, in a Stooges kind of way, but its all fun, and wraps up nicely at the end. There is another hilarious scene, where there are about 30 bullets in a six shooter pistol. It's much like a Python skit, but at under an hour, it's just mostly good fun that is over before it gets dragged out too long. Not bad if you keep those expectations low. Holly Palance (daughter of Jack Palance) plays the air hostess; looks like she did mostly TV stuff. Cleese's wife Connie Booth looking pretty hot in a tight black leather outfit. This film is part of the John Cleese DVD collection from White Star Kultur Productions.
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My two penn'orth
imdbuserg31 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
##### no plot spoilers #####

Just browsing, as you do, through IMDb and encountered 'The Strange Case....' entry.

I remembered this fondly. It means even more to me now because of the resemblance the Arthur Lowe bore to my late father.

That aside, I recall that it was made a long time ago. Forty years to be precise (at the time of writing....2017). So long ago, in fact, that it was when 'the comic messiah' himself (John Cleese) was actually funny. Well, on good days. Let's be honest 'python' produced so much that SOME of it had to be funny. I'd say, on balance, that this was on one of J.C.'s funnier moments. Possibly because Holmes as portrayed here is a bit conceited, arrogant and superior, At least where his lap dog chum Watson is concerned. Maybe it wasn't too much of a stretch for J.C.

That said, the Holmes character is meant to be like that in this film (yes I said film. Not movie). Just as Watson is meant to be butt of this. e.g. "Good lord Holmes, how did you know?" (J.C.) "Because you're so sodding dim".

Connie Booth, was (as memory serves) easy on the eye, well cast and on top form and played the Hudson role, and the reveal role well. In fact I was always wondering why, when given her appearance, writing talent, and acting talent, that she wasn't a much bigger star? Perhaps it didn't sit well wither husband if she began to attract some of the limelight?

The score. To be honest I don't remember too much of the score. I don't recall it being intrusive, or out of place so my presumption is it must've been fine. Editing. As I remember it the story line hung together well enough and nothing was given away too soon. Enough of the technical mumbo-jumbo. I never really understood 'cinematography, lighting, et al. It all sounds good but it doesn't really mean anything. (go on name that quote).

What you really need to know is that it's a reasonable story. It's well told. It's well acted. It's funny. It's of it's time. It's worth watching.... several times. AND.... contrary to several other reviewers here on IMDb, (all but one being from "united States", the other one being from Serbia), it is not at all like Murder By Death. How that is arrived at is a mystery worthy of it's own film. I wouldn't be so crass as to suggest that two different reviewers, using the same vocabulary and making the same mistake, could possibly be in cahoots. The mistake one makes is to mention Murder By Death and state that the characters in Murder By Death are ".. MBD's detectives come from literature's mystery genre and this film's detectives come from American television of that era.". Okay, do I really need to state the blindingly obvious?. Another "United States" reviewer seems to be under the impression that a star should be in every scene from the opening frame to the last frame. Lest I be accused of being a "United States" hater there were several reviews from "United States" where the reviewer actually understood the film, it's comedy AND, perhaps most importantly, the era it was made. The world has moved a long way in 40 years. We cannot apply modern day sensibilities to a 40 year (or older) film. Also, bear in mind, that despite what the world might think, Britain was still on it's uppers in 1977. We paid a price... And Kept on paying. Long after others were rebuilt. No-one rebuilt anything for us. in fact we were paying our 'war loan' ti the U.S.A. until near the end of the millennium. Look it up. you couldn't make this stuff up. So we didn't have a Movie Industry like the Uncle Sam. What I'm trying to say is that it was made with a budget that seems impossible now. I think some of the reviewers from "United States" get that. I'm sure Ms. Booth understood the British psych well. Yes 40 years there were things on British 'telly, that today, you would be shot for, for just suggesting them. Maybe "strange Case..." will only appeal to those entering the dotage. perhaps. but it doesn't mean it doesn't have an appeal. Finally. the thing to remember above all else in the is this. If you like puns, pin back you lugholes because there are a handful of absolute beauties in here. So fun? yes there's fun. Beauty. yes the odd moment. Puns? Oh yes. Humour? (No! It is spelt correctly. this along with so many other things are highlighted, by a world which increasingly believes that the only correct English is that promulgated by - in the western world- an overwhelming United States-centric view. to-wit. The word is NORMALITY! not NORMALCY!. but media-trendy American wannabes, and internet usage would almost deny the existence of the word). Yes plenty of humour. Knowing disapproval? yes. Arthur Lowe? Yes, bless him.

Don't be too hard on this. film. It's not meant to be serious. and it was made, possibly by people your age, long before you were even born. Think about that..."
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Half-baked comedy
vandino110 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Less than an hour in length (and suffering for it, story-wise) this mostly uncooked satire makes little sense and generates little laughter. In fact, it is only the expert comic flair of Arthur Lowe and John Cleese that salvages anything from this witless stew. Ron Moody, unrecognizable, plays a Henry Kissinger-like U.S. Secretary of State who loses his diary and ends up toasting the Jews in an Arab country, sealing his fate. This leads to a distended and fumbling comic scene of the U.S. President (played by Ackland) trying to sort things out. But his obliviousness is only slightly funny, yet we get more of the same from many other characters that leads you to cry out "enough already." Thankfully the most painfully oblivious of all, Dr. Watson, is played by Arthur Lowe who has such a natural delivery (no sitcom ham) that it works. At one point Cleese separates Lowe from an impostor by recognizing that he is "almost magically half-witted." And Cleese himself almost rescues the film with his comic touches, making gold out of dross at times. There's little else to recommend. Booth is her usual pretty but dull self, and the big scene wherein Holmes invites all the famous detectives to gather in order to trap Moriarty is a horrible hodgepodge of impressionist cameos too painful to watch. And it ends weirdly, with Holmes and Watson shot down and Moriarty triumphant. It plays as if there is much more to come, but the film just ends.
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incredibly unfunny
zimbo_the_donkey_boy10 February 2005
No laughs whatsoever. Yes, I watched this entire train wreck but only so that I wouldn't later wonder if Cleese had come to his senses in the latter part. (No, he had not.)

This may be historically interesting to you youngsters out there, to see that British "humor" included black "jokes" like these, thirty years ago.

What amazes me even more though, is to read the other reviewers' comments, which acknowledge this isn't very good, yet then turn around and give it high votes. If the vast majority of the comedies that you have seen are even much worse than this one, then I certainly pity your torturous existences.

The humor level of this show appears aimed at little kids, yet the subject matter does not. So who is this for? People who enjoy repeated & drawn-out double-takes, pratfalls, drug jokes (interesting only as a short trip back to '77), and other "low" humor. The Three Stooges are still funny, and were to me as a kid, too. THEY exerted some effort in making jokes work. This however is sloughed off schlock. I fear that it IS the end of civilization, if this stuff really is accepted as worthwhile. Next you'll be telling me that tabloid TV is popular. :(
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Connie Booth in sexy leather black suit and with a gun.
zapi_025 February 2011
John Cleese as Sherlock Holmes, actually his grandson, but all the same. The descendant of Professor Moriarty is threating to destroy civilization as we know it. And that's it I guess. John Cleese even irritated me, I was like "Hey pal, why you doing that, to me and to yourself, stop it!" Arthur Lowe as extremely unintelligent Dr. Watson is great. Considering it has not plot, the film should be funny. And it's not, and how it's not! Unbelievably unfunny, it gives the new meaning to unfunny. There's the unfunny so bad it's funny again, there's unfunny so bad that I feel embarrassment, there's unfunny that's irritating. This is weird, no emotion was awaken in me whatsoever. It's so unfunny I think it might be funny in the same unspecified way. There are a couple of racist jokes that are interesting to hear. Maybe a joke or two were regularly funny. The rest is weird. Poirot, James Bond i Columbo have some small screen time also, played by random actor of course. Only things that partially make this movie worthwhile are Arthur Lowe as Dr. Watson and Connie Booth in sexy leather black suit and with a gun.
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Badly scripted
jeremy311 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I was expecting a very funny movie. Instead, I got a movie with a few funny jokes, and many that just didn't work. I didn't like the idea of bringing in Sherlock Holmes' and Moriarty's descendants. It was confusing. It would have been more funny if they just had someone new, instead of Moriarty resurrected. Some of the things were funny. Burt Kwouk was very funny, as always. McCloud on the horse was funny. The McGarrett from Hawaii 5-0 was not even McGarrett-like. Connie Booth obviously is very good with accents. She is from Indiana, but played English and a New Yorker pretty well. Unfortunately, she was not presented much into the script. I was expecting a more funny film. Instead, I got a rather confusing movie with a poor script. Rather ironic, since both Booth and Cleese were together on this one. Maybe they were about to break up in 77.
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Several decent ideas interspersed with totally inferior material.
fedor814 September 2008
Considering that this pointless little comedy was sandwiched between the two terrific Fawlty Towers seasons, and written around the same time as the best Python movie, "Life of Brian", it is amazing to me how Cleese could possibly have co-written such a lame script. Perhaps it was McGrath's fault to an extent? The two had already collaborated once on a monstrously unfunny flop called "The Magic Christian".

TSCOTEOCAWKI starts off fairly well with the murder of Kissinger, and then a decently written, pythonesque skit in the White House. From there it goes gradually downhill. The movie gets worse and worse by the minute, culminating in a finale that was simply too embarrassing to watch. I'm embarrassed just thinking about it now! It's the kind of material that 16 year-old comedy hopefuls would write for a high-school play. Moronic and unfunny to a fault.

When I first saw Kissinger/Gropinger, I thought it was Peter Sellers with make-up. However, Sellers would have done his homework and spoken the way Kissinger really speaks. This other actor did a poor imitation, voice-wise...
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Murder By Death revisited
Dakota10021 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I enjoyed this short film and recommend it to all who enjoy Cleese doing what he does best. Arthur Lowe's portrayal of a bumbling Dr. Watson is great as is Connie Booth's Mrs. Hudson. The plot is similar to that of the higher budget 1976 comedy film Murder By Death in that a gathering of famous detectives is empaneled to solve a crime. It differs in that Cleese and company depend more on sight gags than on a clever script. (At least one gag was lifted nearly intact from the the earlier film.) Another difference is that MBD's detectives come from literature's mystery genre and this film's detectives come from American television of that era.

This film pokes good fun at a variety of world cultures with special emphasis on the USA. (Perhaps I am being overly sensitive.) I recommend that those unfamiliar with either film watch The Strange Case before viewing Murder By Death to avoid being mildly distracted by the similarities as I was.
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A Park, a Policeman and a Pretty GIrl
jzappa4 September 2010
The strange case has been made through studies that kids will laugh when presented with something out of place, like a funny face, if the face is made by someone with whom they are acquainted, but they will repel if it's presented by a stranger. This conveys that our reactions to inconsistencies, oddities, unanticipated discrepancies with normalcy and established ranks will differ in terms of particular circumstances. If the incongruity happens in a context where it's threatening, it'll dispose us toward a threatened reaction. This is maybe the seed of the horror genre. On the other hand, if the context is one that is distinguished as non-threatening, where the possibility of hurt and fear has been withheld, the scenarios are opportune for humor.

We follow the attempts of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and various governments to stop all civilization from being destroyed, but everyone is too terminally stupid or apathetic to be successful at it. We need not worry about the targets of all the brutality and cruelty in blacker realms of comedy, including slapstick, because they're not completely human.

It's an accelerated, often hilarious jaunt that heckles at just about everything mystery, espionage or potboiler in English and American media. Holmes, Bond, Columbo, etc., little more than a vaudeville act in breadth and elaboration. The peak of this film is Arthur Lowe as the guileless, blundering Watson, his stupidity and listlessness always counterblowing Cleese's temperamental ingenuity.
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Simply Bad, Watson
justinboggan4 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
You open with an airplane that has an actor pulling off a poor Jerry Lewis impersonation, doing the forgetful Jewish stereotype, that's so boring and annoying you wonder if you should even continue watching it. Underneath you have the terrible underscoring with the music just going DUN DUN ... DUN DUN ... DUN DUN over and over and over again (and this is coming from me -- a film and TV score lover).

You stick with it and instead of being rewarded, you are tortured by a poorly written, poorly delivered, and badly executed scene of a mis-cast United States President talking to advisers. That's six minutes of your life. During the next minute what happened in the opening is finally addressed and the plot is starting to advance. It's painful, it's mental torture, it goes on for almost eight full minutes. But, you stick with it because John Cleese is in it and other reviewers praise it. And he must be in it, because he was seen riding a bicycle during the opening credits music.

FINALLY, thirteen freaking minutes into the fifty-five minutes long special, Cleese actually joins the film already in progress. Oh yes, there's nothing better than seeing one of three people the film is about, not actually do anything but ride a bicycle in the opening credits, until thirteen minutes later. By the way, he doesn't even speak until about fifteen minutes in. After all, the last thing we want to hear is the main star of the film speak words.

Twenty-one minutes in it tells us we've reached the conclusion of Part I, and by that point almost nothing has been accomplished.

Another eleven minutes later and Part II has ended and we know almost nothing more than we learned in the first part.

And when Part III ends, you find out there was no actual serious plot, that the whole thing was filler jokes and skits leading to no resolution of everything we were told and ending in rear-end squeaker.

There is so much un-earned and undeserved padding in this special that you could probably trim it down to ten minutes, and even then it would still be awful and not funny.

There are so many bad jokes and poorly executed ones. Not a single laugh in this whole hour of misfires. The premise was't bad, the idea of Cleese as Sherlock Holmes's grandson (following in Holmes footsteps) hunting his old nemesis in modern times has potential, some of the casting was good, and there were little skits that had the potential to be funny if they had been done right, but overall I found myself struggling to watch it, skimming small parts, and wishing a giant foot would slam down and tell us it was now time for something completely different.

The score is unremarkable and at times boring when even there. I wonder why there was even a score, as it was heard so little and did nothing to enhance the struggling mess.

And there are bad edits, film and sound wise.

This is terrible and deservedly forgotten.
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Cleese and Lowe can't save this utterly wretched comedy
cherold15 August 2016
This isn't just bad for a TV comedy, this is bad for a comedy film made by high school students.

The very first scene, in which a Kissinger-esque character mugs and does a funny voice, instantly establishes that this will be broad, amateurish comedy. The next scene with a confused U.S. president confirms it.

Things pick up when Sherlock and Watson arrive. John Cleese is quite amusing, and Arthur Lowe is marvelously funny. But the script is awful, and the acting is remarkably bad (outside of Cleese and Lowe, the only competent performance is by Connie Booth).

Basically, you've got some laughs whenever Cleese and Lowe are around, and everything else is embarrassingly bad. I'm just shocked that this was made and actually broadcast to the world. It should have been burned, and the ashes buried.
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