Start the Revolution Without Me  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Start the Revolution Without Me is a 1970 film directed by Bud Yorkin, starring Gene Wilder, Donald Sutherland, Hugh Griffith, Jack MacGowran, Billie Whitelaw, Orson Welles (playing himself as narrator) and Victor Spinetti. The comedy is set in revolutionary France where two peasants are mistaken for the famous swordsmen, the Corsican Brothers. It can be considered a parody of a number of works of historical fiction about the French Revolution, including Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities and Dumas' The Corsican Brothers.



Two sets of identical twins, played by Wilder and Sutherland, are accidentally switched at birth. One set is aristocratic and haughty, the other poor and dim-witted. On the eve of the French Revolution, both sets find themselves entangled in palace intrigues.


Start the Revolution Without Me authors Fred Freeman and Lawrence J. Cohen were nominated for a WGA award for "Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen" in 1971.



  • "Make haste, Escargot."
  • Narrator: "Paris, France, 1789. Thirty years later, under the reign of Louis XVI, longstanding grievances between aristocrat and peasant were about to boil over. The pot in which these troubles boiled was kindled with the firewood of oppression and injustice and heated by the flames that sucked the air from gasping peasants. Would the pot cool off, would it merely simmer, or would it boil over in the kitchen of France-- to stain the floor of history forever?"

Treatment of History

As a spoof, the film has no pretense of historical accuracy. Louis XVI, who was 38 years old at the time of his death, is played by Hugh Griffith, who was in his late fifties when the film was shot. He is portrayed as a bumbling cuckold. Marie Antoinette, here called simply Marie, is portrayed as a nymphomaniac. The French Revolution is depicted as being led exclusively by the impoverished masses, while most revolutionary leaders were actually middle or upper-class citizens. The film also portrays the man in the iron mask, who actually lived during the reign of Louis XIV.

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