Tony Mastroianni Review Collection
Camera Gives Aisle Seat in Movie "Stop the World"
Cleveland Press May 28, 1966
"Stop the World -- I Want to Get Off" is not a movie version of the original. It is instead, a photographed performance that takes advantage of a few cinematic techniques -- zoom shots, closeups, angle shots -- but remains essentially a stage presentation.
This is the work that in London starred the multi-talented Anthony Newley who also co-authored book, Iyrics and music. When he and the show moved to New York he was replaced by Tony Tanner and it is Tanner who is in the filmed production.
Tanner is Littlechap, an amoral nobody, an opportunistic Everyman, a fantasy character whose life is traced from birth to death.
There is his marriage, the birth of his children, his climb to success, his love affairs and finally the realization of the emptiness of a self-centered life.
Much of this, indeed the best of it, is told in song and pantomime. The character wears clown makeup. His trousers end somewhere below the knees. The rest of the world's population is a chorus of girls who sing, dance and comment on the fortunes and misfortunes of Littlechap.
MILLICENT MARTIN is Evie, his wife as well as portraying his Russian, Japanese and American girl friends.
"Stop the World" is rather simple social comment, a thin frame on which to hang good songs. Its stage setting is an empty circus arena and there has been no attempt to embellish this for the film.
Obviously much of this has been done in a studio to make for flexible camera work, but the movie audience is constantly nudged into remembering that this is a theatrical offering with shots and sounds of an applauding audience and a pit orchestra.
Stage trickery, symbolism, scrims, bare planks and clown makeup do not fare well under the unrelenting scrutiny of the camera.
Nor do the heavy-handed ribaldries of some of the lines and lyrics sound comfortable booming off of a soundtrack.
Director Philip Saville has a free-wheeling camera technique which helps give the movie motion and variety: Tanner is a good Littlechap and makes the most of his big moments -- such songs as "Gonna Build a Mountain," "Once In a Lifetime" and "What Kind of Fool Am I?"