The economy of the tiny Grand Duchy of Fenwick (population about 1,000) is suffering because its bottles of home-made wine (“Pinot Grand Fenwick”) explode on opening. To make matters worse, the country’s hot water system is on the blink and they can’t afford to finance a new one.
With the approval of Fenwick’s addled Grand Duchess (Margaret Rutherford), Prime Minister Mountjoy (Ron Moody) engineers a brilliant scheme. Why not, he proposes, ask the USA for a grant to finance rocket exploration of the moon? The income thus obtained could then be diverted to the more basic requirements of municipal plumbing.
The grant comes through – twice the amount asked – and Russia competes by supplying an engineless rocket to Fenwick’s infant space programme.
Mountjoy’s scheme is close to realisation when his weakling son, Vincent (Bernard Cribbins) decides to become his country’s first astronaut in order to win the heart of a local belle (June Ritchie).
Unknown to the government, a patriotic scientist called Kokintz (David Kossoff) has learned to convert volatile Fenwickian Pinot into even more volatile rocket fuel. And just as hot water starts flowing into the principality’s bathtubs, the scientist and the nervous astronaut take off on a wacky lunar expedition.
The combination of a witty Michael Pertwee script, the exuberant direction of Richard Lester and the unique talents of Margaret Rutherford would normally have been enough to guarantee comic gold.
But – perhaps because Peter Sellers in a triple role was a hard act to follow – this sequel to The Mouse That Roared (1959) never really gets off the ground.
The Grand Duchess Gloriana
Prime Minister Mountjoy
John Le Mesurier