Today: May 22, 2024

Vice Versa

Freaky Friday, The Change-Up, 17 Again, 18 Again… how Hollywood does love a body-swap caper. But while the 1988 Fred Savage version of Vice Versa might be the one that everyone knows, there have actually been three other films of the same name. 

The first, silent version, came in 1916, followed by further adaptations in 1937 and 1948. Of these, the 1948 remake sticks closest to the original Victorian novel, with Roger Livesey playing the father, and a very young Anthony Newley as the son.

During a heart-to-heart with his son, pompous businessman Paul Bultitude (Livesey) admits that he envies his son Dick’s youth, while Dick wishes he were grown up. They both get what they wish for when a magic Indian artefact suddenly switches them, so that the son becomes the father (and vice versa).

F Anstey’s original novel was written in 1882 and, unsurprisingly, is a more sedate tale than the one crafted by Peter Ustinov, who squeezes every inch of comedy from the often bizarre and sometimes ridiculous set pieces. The result is both funny and, at times, a little laboured.

Those who only know Newley  as a singer, will be impressed with the ease with which he carries what was his first big film performance. However, it’s hard not to feel that the towering talent of Roger Livesey is sadly wasted in a role that requires little beyond him being prepared to be the butt of the joke–which he does with considerable charm.

For modern audiences, Vice Versa sadly doesn’t quite hit the beats and many will find it poor viewing compared to the ‘80s hit. But there’s lots here to enjoy and Network’s September release gives this neglected slice of British cinema a welcome High Definition remaster that retains its original theatrical aspect ratio.

• Image gallery.

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email:

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