review for Waltz of the Toreadors on AllMovie

Waltz of the Toreadors (1962)
by Craig Butler review

Drawn rather freely from Jean Anouilh's bittersweet comedy, Waltz of the Toreadors does not have the subtlety and density of observation that mark its source material, but on its own terms it is an amusing sex farce with a little more on its mind than an expression of carnal desires. Screenwriter Wolf Mankowitz has re-set the story from post-World War II France to pre-World War I Sussex, perhaps to imbue the film with a more "otherworldly" quality; he has also coarsened a great deal of the dialogues and situations. While this places him at odds with Anoiulh, it seems to dovetail nicely with both director John Guillermin and star Peter Sellers's rather broad take on the material. In Sellers's case, this is all to the good; one of the screen's most adept character comedians, he delights in the opportunities that the screenplay gives him to plot, bumble and foil in the most amusing manner possible. The actor also captures a great deal of the pathos and sorrow in the character's life, and gives a wonderfully convincing performance all around. The film as a whole is rather less successful at reconciling the shifts between high and low comedy, drama and even tragedy, and the thrust of the film eventually becomes muddled. As a result, Waltz stumbles a bit more often than it glides, but overall it's an amusing and interesting little dance.