The Greatest Peter Sellers Spoof You Never Heard of

The Forgotten Peter Sellers Spoof

In 1957, the World War 2 movie The Bridge on the River Kwai was released, in which a burly-chested Richard Holbrook snaked his way through jungles of Burma (without a piano) to help destroy a bridge being built by the Imperial Japanese Army, using prisoner of war labor. These prisoners were mostly British soldiers led by none other than distinguished officer Obi-Wan Kenobi.

An elegant actor, for a more civilized age.

The movie won seven Academy Awards, including Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Movie. But arguably* the most impressive thing it achieved was a now forgotten spoof starring none other than Peter Sellers before he became Inspector Clouseau.

*We didn’t say it was a good argument, but outside of The Argument in Monty Python's Flying Circus,  what argument is good? OK, the argument to stop and get a cup of coffee is good too. Amongst the many good arguments…where were we now? 

The Forgotten Peter Sellers Spoof

The Bridge on the River Wye was released as an album in 1962, which was a medium used by the ancients to record primitive sounds by “The Beatles," and “The Rolling Stones” and the like. It was written with that classic British humor that would give birth to Monty Python in a few years. In short, it was hilarious. 

Full disclosure: this post could have been titled “The forgotten Spike Milligan Spoof,” since it was written by him, as he and Peter Sellers were two of the three members of The Goon Show (the third was Harry Secombe), the comedic team that provided much of the voice talent.  But we figured if we said Spike Milligan, you would not find it odd as you'd never heard of him either. 

Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, and Harry Secombe

When the Goon Show originally went to release the parody radio broadcast, they kept the movie title The Bridge Over the River Kwai, but lawyers representing the movie studio threatened legal action. According to one interview from the 1980s, Spike had to go back into the editing room and take a literal razor blade to physically cut the tape to remove the phonetic K sound from every instance of the word Kwai.  

And you thought using Adobe Premier was tedious. 

The radio parody is a condensed version of the movie, although the characters’ names have been altered. The voice acting is hilarious, especially considering how closely Sellers et al mimic the distinctive voices of Alec Guiness and Bill Holden. Now if you’ve seen the actual Bridge on the River Kwai, you’ll love this parody. But the genius of Wye is that it’s hilarious even if you’ve not seen Kwai

Bridge on the River Wye Quotes

It’s a masterpiece of classic British humor. Here are some out of context quotes.

British Officer: “We’d rather die than work.”

---

British Officer: “Pull up a chair.”

Cody: “I’d rather stand, sir.”

British Officer“Then stand in a chair, then. We respect American traditions.”

---

Commander Itchycootchey: “Is that you, Major Barbara?”

Major Barbara: “I can’t see, it’s rather dark out here."

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Cody: “Hey Eccles, you awake?”

Field Marshal Eccles: “Yeah,  s'why'm stannin up! "

---

Narrator: “Both the American and the Field Marshall escaped. Except the Field Marshall.”


Pretty much the whole record is brilliant, so do yourself a favor and give it a listen.

Now, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out one fly in the ointment: the voice acting for the Japanese commander, Itchycootchey, is pretty culturally insensitive by today’s standards. While it’s easy (and correct!) from this chronological distance to condemn cultural insensitivity,  it was a different time. That doesn't excuse it, but it does give us perspective.  Having said that, as inappropriate as it may be, it was common for the time.  We can recognize it for what it was, learn from it, and just maybe enjoy the rest of it.

You can buy a copy of the Bridge on the River Wye through Amazon (at least, you can when it’s in stock again). There also may be a copy on YouTube. But you didn’t hear that from us.

Be honest: have you ever listened to this forgotten Peter Sellers spoof before? Tell us in the comments! And if you haven’t but decide to listen, tell us what you think.

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