Consuming Passions (1988)

UK,
98m
35mm film, colour
Dolby Stereo, English

A British borderline horror comedy film directed by Giles Foster.

Plot Summary

Mr Farris's first day at Butterworth Chocolates is a disaster when he accidentally knocks several of his new colleagues into a mixing vat. He keeps the accident a secret but the chocolates are sent out for sale – and the public love them. Now Farris has to find a way to keep up the supply of the special ingredient that has made them so popular…

Credits

Crew
Directed by: Giles Foster
© MCMLXXXVIII [1988] Euston Films Limited and the Samuel Goldwyn Company
The Samuel Goldwyn Company and Euston Films Limited present a Euston Films/Samuel Goldwyn Company production
Produced by: William P. Cartlidge
Screenplay by: Paul D. Zimmerman and Andrew Davies
Based on the play ‘Secrets‘ by: Michael Palin & Terry Jones
Director of Photography: Roger Pratt
Editor: John Grover
Music Composed & Conducted by: Richard Hartley
Sound Mixer: Tony Dawe
Costume Designer: Barbara Kidd
Chief Make-up Artist: Naomi Donne
Chief Hairdresser: Jeannette Freeman
Special Effects Supervisor: Ian Wingrove
Video Effects: Richard Hewitt
Production Designer: Peter Lamont
Made at: Pinewood Studios

Cast
Vanessa Redgrave (Mrs Garza)
Jonathan Pryce (Mr Farris)
Tyler Butterworth (Ian Littleton)
Freddie Jones (Graham Chumley)
Prunella Scales (Ethel)
Sammi Davis (Felicity)
Thora Hird (Mrs Gordon)
Timothy West (Dr Rees)
William Rushton (Big Teddy)
Andrew Sachs (Jason)
Mary Healey (Mrs Eggleton)
Bryan Pringle (gateman)
John Wells (Dr Forrester)
Debbie Davies (Mrs. Coot)
Preston Lockwood (Josiah)
Angus Barnett (Josiah's son)
Adam Stocker (Trevor)
Robert Bridges (Wooster)
Patrick Newell (Lester)
Leonard Trolley (mayor)

Alternative Titles

Cioccolato bollente – Italy
Pasión devoradora – Spain
Passió devoradora – Spain (Catalan)

Remake of
Black and Blue: Secrets (1973)

Press

1988

Village Voice 12 April 1988
[A] respectably fourth-rate English black comedy, as flip and cynical as Bright Lights, Big City is earnest and searching. Neither extreme is satisfying, but Consuming Passions is harder to sit through. […] Based (unaccountably) on a play by Monty Python‘s Michael Palin and Terry Jones, Consuming Passions is as dull as Little Shop of Horrors would be without the plant, and the actors are largely helpless. Vanessa Redgrave, as the lascivious Maltese widow of one of the first victims, makes a startling entrance – all black, flashing eyes and jiggling tongue. She steals the movie in that scene; unfortunately, she has four or five more, and she doesn't wear well. – from a review by David Edelstein

Daily Mail 20 October 1988 p.30
Yet another satire on big business taken from a play by Michael Palin and Terry Jones but you'd never guess, for the result is woeful. […] for laughs, a stale joke thanks to the recent Eat the Rich, needs to be far darker, sharper and generally better to justify the revolting theme. – from a review by Shaun Usher

What's On 26 October 1988 p.69
This is a tasteless production, using the lowest forms of humour in its attempts to satirise the faceless, careless mechanics of large corporations, and their desire to make a quick buck at the expense of the customer. […] Under Giles Foster's oppressive direction, and a script bursting with stereotypical characters and predictable situations, it is painfully obvious that Consuming Passions is trying to emulate the humour and style of the :Carry On|Carry On series. But while the Carry On films were hardly paragons of subtle humour, at least there was a sense of innocence, with their bawdy jokes edging just on the border of tasteless. While Consuming Passions does have several moments of fine comedy, it relies much too heavily on its cast to pull off the sordid jokes found in the tiresome script. Comedy connoisseurs be careful, as Consuming Passions is liable to leave a nasty taste in your mouth. – from a review (Ian and the factory) by Robert Sims

The Guardian 27 October 1988 p.21
This has a cast among whom are Vanessa Redgrave (as a sexy Maltese widow, for God's sake), Jonathan Pryce, Freddie Jones, Sammi Davis, Tyler Butterworth, Prunella Scales, Thora Hird and William Rushton. And for their sake I shall draw a discreet veil over the proceedings, save to say that the worst Carry On was infinitely better and I cannot imagine what happened. – from a review by Derek Malcolm

The Independent 27 October 1988 p.19
The story was originally a 1970s TV play (Secrets) by Michael Palin and Terry Jones, starring Warren Mitchell, but has been half-heartedly updated, by Paul D. Zimmerman and Andrew Davies, and then directed by Giles Foster as if all that was needed to make a modern Ealing comedy was a provincial setting, some broad stereotypes and plenty of light orchestral music on the soundtrack. On television, the original play had a startlingly macabre flavour; on the big screen, in a reversal of the progress of the plot, it has been rendered synthetic. Of the redundantly first-rate cast (which includes Jonathan Pryce and Freddie Jones) only Vanessa Redgrave and Prunella Scales survive with their reputation more or less intact, despite everything a hostile wig and costume department can throw at them. – from a review by Adam Mars-Jones

The Times 27 October 1988 p.20
Done with Monty Python style it could have worked. As it is, it has an aimless script by Paul D. Zimmerman and Andrew Davies, unfocused direction by Giles Foster, and a good cast (Tyler Butterworth, Jonathan Pryce, Freddie Jones, Thora Hird and Vanessa Redgrave, in a humiliatingly silly role) trapped in comic stereotypes. – from a review by David Robinson

Daily Mirror 28 October 1988 p.16
When you note that the original story of Consuming Passions comes from the acid sharp, wickedly witty minds of Michael Palin and Terry Jones, and that among its stars are Vanessa Redgrave, Jonathan Pryce and Prunella Scales, you could be fooled into thinking your are in for a treat. Don't be conned. This so-called comedy about lust, greed and death by chocolate is a tasteless, predictable little farce, and Messrs Palin and Jones did not write the script. – from a review by Pauline McLeod

Financial Times 28 October 1988 p.25
Consuming Passions is to gymnastic humour in the cinema what Gerald Ford is to aeroplane steps. […] [Vanessa Redgrave] typifies the whole enterprise. Crunching out her lines with a toffee-and-broken-glass accent – she sounds like Melina Mercouri on drugs – she vamps away bravely, gets a few grateful giggles, but finally expires, starved of the oxygen of a good script. – from a review by Nigel Andrews

Today 28 October 1988 p.33
A power battle in a chocolate factory must have sounded a great idea to Pythons Michael Palin and Terry Jones one night over a good claret. And when you've got their clout you can co-opt Vanessa Redgrave, Prunella Scales and Jonathan Pryce on board. But like rats manfully clinging to a sinking ship these acting luminaries go chocs away with a truly dreadful stinker. […] Consuming Passions fails on every level. The cringe-inducing script makes a Carry On film look sophisticated, the story-line creaks and groans relying on hamfisted car chases and juvenile double entendres and not even the partially jovial sight of Redgrave in full, brassy, winking flight can salvage any decent laughs. […] Consuming Passions is a waste of everyone's time and I shall never look at a box of hard centres the same again. – from a review by Sue Heal

New Musical Express 29 October 1988 p.28
A sickly and nostalgic Ealing-style comedy about the battle between a small family firm and the giant conglomerate which has just bought them cut, it adds insult to injury with a nerdy Norman Wisdom-style hero whose chronic incompetence is the source of most of its own inept attempts at comedy. […] Freddie Jones preserves a little dignity as the owner of the threatened family firm, while Jonathan Pryce oozes smarminess as the conglomerate's ruthless hatchet man. Everyone else is wasted on caricatured roles, most notably the talented Sammi Davis […] As pointless and sick-making (though nothing like as smooth) as eating 10 bars of Galaxy one after the other. – from a review by Nigel Floyd

Sunday Telegraph 6 November 1988 p.19
[T]his farce might be retitled Sweeney Todd and the Chocolate Factory; but its only real humour, incredibly, comes from Vanessa Redgrave as a man-eating Maltese vamp. – from a review by Richard Mayne

1990
Today 24 July 1990 p.22
A delightful parody of consumerism gone mad […] Tyler Butterworth borrows more than a few mannerisms from Norman Wisdom to invest his character with clumsy naivety and there is a wealth of talent in the supporting cast […] This is British film-making at its best in the mould of the traditional Ealing comedies. The chaotic action masks a strong social commentary on how far we will go to make a profit in a Thatcherite world where just about everything, it seems, is expendable. It is interesting that the film was a coproduction with Thames Television's film-making arm – Euston Films – and makes a strong argument for more money to be invited in this type of film production. It certainly made refreshing viewing in the sea of endless repeats which is our traditional summer TV fare. Mind you, I hate to think what it will do to the sales of Milk Tray. – from a review (Last night's view: Rummest truffles go down well by Lester Middlehurst

References

Periodicals

  • American Film vol.13 no.5 (March 1988) p.68 – article
  • City Limits no.369 (27 October 1988) p.29 – review
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.55 no.658 (November 1988) pp.328-329 (UK) – credits, synopsis, review (by Geoff Brown)
  • New Musical Express 29 October 1988 p.28 – review (by Nigel Floyd)
  • Screen International no.610 (25 July 1987) p.8 – note (by Peter Noble)
  • Screen International no.623 (24 October1987) p.407 – note
  • Screen International no.651 (7 May 1988) p.101 – advertisement
  • Screen International no.676 (29 October1988) p.18 – review
  • Sight & Sound vol.1 no.5 (September 1991) p.60 – video note
  • Television Today 7 May 1987) p.15 – note
  • Televisual October 1987) p.42,43 – illustrator note (Euston's big screen test by Matthew Bolton)
  • Time Out no.949 (26 October1988) p.33 – review
  • Variety 6 April 1988) p.12 – review
  • What's On 26 October 1988 p.69 – review (Ian and the chocolate factory by Robert Sims)

Newspapers

  • The Daily Mail 20 October 1988 p.30 – review (by Shaun Usher)
  • The Daily Mirror 28 October 1988 p.16 – review (by Pauline McLeod)
  • Financial Times 28 October 1988 p.25 – review (by Nigel Andrews)
  • The Guardian 27 October 1988 p.21 – review (by Derek Malcolm)
  • The Independent 27 October 1988 p.19 – review (by Adam Mars-Jones)
  • The Sun 29 October 1988 p.28 – review (by Mark Solomons)
  • Sunday Telegraph 6 November 1988 p.19 – review (by Richard Mayne)
  • The Times 27 October 1988 p.20 – review (by David Robinson)
  • Today 28 October 1988 p.33 – review (by Sue Heal)
  • Today 24 July 1990 p.22 – review (Last night's view: Rummest truffles go down well by Lester Middlehurst)
  • Village Voice 12 April 1988 – review (by David Edelstein)

Books

  • The Films of the Eighties by Robert A. Nowlan and Gwendolyn Wright Nowlan p.110 – credits, synopsis
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films IV by Donald C. Willis p.92