Six Stages of Hell – ‘The Stars Collection’ Part 2: All the Queen’s Men (2001)

allthequeens

Directed by: Stefan Ruzowitzky

The second side of disc one is ‘All the Queen’s Men’ starring Matt LeBlanc. It feels odd to have a double sided DVD; it almost takes me back to my early nineties cassette days when I played side A of a 2 Unlimited album and then flip over to side B only to find the tape gets chewed up. One thing I’ve always admired about physical media is that there is an interaction with the product, and that often the product is faulty. This side didn’t play straight away, so I had to take it out, rub it a bit with a glasses cleaning cloth and stick it back into the DVD player. It luckily worked second time around.

‘All the Queen’s Men’ should appeal to me, because I am interested in the Second World War, and have a perverse fascination with transvestites. It took some genius to combine them both, and that man was David Schneider, the deviant looking comedy actor from ‘The Day Today’ and ‘I’m Alan Partridge’. Schneider’s idea is unique enough to work, and in the right hands it might have. But the main problem is that Matt LeBlanc was cast as the leading man.

mattdrag

We open with Matt LeBlanc, and given that he is best known for playing a failed actor in a long running sitcom, to see him prancing around with his perfect hair, and cheeky smile, it takes a little while to take him seriously as a hard-nosed Special Forces soldier. He’s behind enemy lines, wearing a German officer’s uniform; he steals an enigma machine, commandeers a tank and flees with a whole squadron of Nazi’s chasing after him. One enterprising Kraut jumps into a tank, and LeBlanc and the German indulge in a tank chase across a idyllic field.

Thankfully the Brits are able to intercept LeBlanc and force him to hand over the enigma machine. Believing it to be a typewriter and given they don’t keep hold of German property; they destroy it and throw LeBlanc into an Allied military prison. LeBlanc spends some time whilst incarcerated rolling around in the mud, learning the basics of rugby. He looks likely to spend the rest of the war imprisoned.

Partly similar to act one of ‘The Dirty Dozen’, (LeBlanc’s character was not going to be hanged, but he did bite the finger of a British officer) LeBlanc is given the chance by Major Aitken to skip porridge and take part in a special mission to infiltrate a factory where the enigma machines are manufactured, this factory is staffed by women. Ever the ladies’ man, LeBlanc quips “And where would I be inserted?”

A motley team is assembled to join LeBlanc, which includes a naïve brainbox called Johnno who is multi-lingual and adept at cracking codes, a cowardly pen pusher named Hartley and Parker (Eddie Izzard) a transvestite cabaret singer. The Major tells Parker “I want you to turn these men into women”. The group, clad in the finest 1940’s woman’s fashion, parachute deep into Nazi Germany and search frantically for the enigma factory.

mattdrag2

Had David Schneider passed this idea onto Quentin Tarantino when he was brainstorming for ‘Inglorious Basterds’ then we might have had a more subversive movie. Instead it is a passable afternoon romp, but nothing more than that. Matt LeBlanc is not an inspiring lead, and is somewhat cursed by being forever stuck in our memories as ‘Joey’. It’s weird, you get the impression that LeBlanc would only dress up as a dame if throughout the film the audience is reminded that he isn’t really a queer. Hence the inclusion of a love interest, a librarian called Romy, who seems to be some kind of resistance member, yet we’re never quite sure why she risks life and limb to help the four Allied drag queens. It’s also interesting to note that this film was distributed by Strand Releasing, a company that has put out numerous LGBT titles. Then there is the problem with a Major in the British army going to all that trouble in the first place to send a mouthy American on a suicide mission. Why not just let him rot in jail?

Director Stefan Ruzowitzky went back to the Second World War and won an Academy Award for 2007’s ‘The Counterfeiters’. But ‘All the Queen’s Men’ will remain a stone cold flop on his record, earning just under twenty three thousand dollars at the American Box Office. LeBlanc has since redeemed himself in TV land playing himself on ‘Episodes’, and one can only hope he never returns to film.

– RJW
5/10

All the Queen’s Men on IMDB
Buy All The Queen’s Men [2001] [DVD]

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