Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? is another teen favorite of mine recaptured on disc by Warner Archive. I really shouldn’t have been watching this murder-comedy-romance at that age, but that’s part of the fun of rediscovering something you think you know — the nuances are all more visible to me now.
And still timely! A large, blustery, self-centered Robert Morley is a London food critic and magazine editor whose doctor has told him that due to his gout, enlarged liver, ulcer, and heart disease, he must lose weight and change his eating habits immediately, or he will die in the next six months. Since Morley lives to dine on the best foods without regard to quantity, he refuses to take the advice.
Dashing 70s-style George Segal is a fast-food franchise entrepreneur, multi-millionaire, and ex-husband of the gorgeous Jacqueline Bisset, a world-famous pastry chef. Morley is putting together the world’s finest meal as part of a celebration for the Queen, and Bisset will be providing dessert. Only the chefs responsible for the various courses start dying, killed in the manner of preparation of their signature dish. The chef known for pigeons en croute, for example, is found baked in oven, while the lobster chef is drowned in a tank of the crustaceans.
Can Segal and Bisset find the killer in London, Venice, or Paris before she’s offed as the final course? Will Bisset return to Segal? And is she really bad luck, since she keeps dating the chefs who end up deceased?
I’ve included the image of the older-style Warner Archive discs because I love that picture of the bombe dessert, in all its baroque glory. There’s one sequence early in the film that just shows how the layered dessert is assembled. The newer discs have the original poster, in which the pastry in the picture is replaced by a cartoony body under serving dome. Here’s a fan trailer, to hit the high points:
The movie could be very current, what with the concern over healthy eating and the high-status snobbery over food, if not for such small touches as Bisset getting off her international flight wearing what looks like a petting zoo’s worth of small animals hanging off of her. It’s a casual fur, in other words, and it wasn’t until seeing that bizarre vision that I realized how long it’s been since such a coat was considered high fashion instead of in bad taste.
Also shocking is how reasonably-sized Morley looks when everyone keeps commenting on how huge he is. These days, our idea of morbidly obese has increased along with everyone’s weight — I’ve seen bigger working cartoonists than Morley, who appears almost dapper in his tailored three-piece suits. Morley is a source of terrific one-liners throughout as well as providing a wonderful idea for critics to remember: “You don’t have to be able to lay an egg to smell a bad one.”
For anyone bored with cooking shows and curious about the food fashions of another era (1978), Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? is a wonderful afternoon’s diversion. You might even be inspired, as happens during one scene, to have a delicious snack in bed while fooling around with someone attractive and talented.