Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Vice Versa

Two movies have been based (the latter very loosely) on Vice Versâ, or A Lesson to Fathers (1882) by F Anstey.

1. UK movie (1947). Rank/Two Cities/General. Pr George H Brown, Peter Ustinov. Dir Ustinov. Spfx Henry Harris. Mufx Geoffrey Rodway. Screenplay Ustinov. Starring Petula Clark (Dulcie), David Hutcheson (Paradine), James Robertson Justice (Dr Grimstone), Roger Livesey (Paul Bultitude), Anthony Newley (Dick Bultitude), Kay Walsh (Fanny Verlayne), Joan Young (Alice). 111 mins. B/w.

Dastardly Marmaduke Paradine plunders the eye of the Hyena God from an Indian temple and on his return to England, believing the stone cursed, gives it to his cousin – stuffy, parsimonious bereaved stockbroker Paul Bultitude. While bundling off son Dick to hellish school Grimstone's, Paul foolishly yearns for his own schooldays, the happiest of his life, and the stone grants his wish, transforming him into a replica of Dick. Father and son discover the stone will grant only one Wish per person; Dick petulantly wishes he could take over his father's role. As his father, Dick copes with the flirty affections of gold-seeking chorus girl Fanny, kindles the passions of maid Alice, avoids being killed in a duel over Fanny by the militaristic Earl of Gosport, and is persuaded by Paradine to invest the family fortune in the – presumed crazy – development of the horseless carriage. Meantime, Paul is discovering the beastly realities of life under the thumb of vicious headmaster Grimstone while fending off the youthful enthusiasms of the martinet's daughter Dulcie. Dick's younger brother is persuaded to wish for a return to the status quo ante, the villains are routed, and father and son become firmest friends. The whole is told from the vantage of later years by Paul (now wed to Alice) on the day of Dick's marriage to Dulcie.

Although the humour – and for that matter the spfx – tend to trundle rather than scamper, VV has great richnesses of comedy, including several classic scenes and some fine character performances. It remains the default movie presentation of the Identity-Exchange theme. [JG]

2. US movie (1988). Columbia/Clement/La Frenais. Pr Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais. Exec pr Alan Ladd Jr. Dir Brian Gilbert. Vfx Louis Schwartzberg. Spfx Dennis Dion. Screenplay Clement, La Frenais. Starring Corinne Bohrer (Sam), Gloria Gifford (Marcie), Jane Kaczmarek (Robyn Seymour), Swoozie Kurtz (Tina), William Prince (Mr Avery), David Proval (Turk), Judge Reinhold (Marshall Seymour), Fred Savage (Charlie Seymour). 98 mins. Colour.

Executive Chicago yuppie and divorcé Marshall accidentally comes into possession of a mystical ornamental skull from Thailand. Before he can return it to smugglers Tina and Turk, he and 11-year-old son Charlie each make a nonce-Wish that they could exchange lives, and an Identity Exchange occurs. Charlie has to cope with boardroom battles and backstabbing at the store while Marshall must cope with schoolroom bullies and a martinet teacher; both must cope with their relationships to Marshall's ex-wife Robyn, his improbably beautiful girlfriend Sam, and the efforts of the smugglers to regain the skull. All turns out well, of course. Though slight, the movie is exceptionally good-humoured, sometimes very funny and constantly charming, with Savage particularly excellent as a man in a boy's body. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.