Heavens Above! (1963) - Rotten Tomatoes

Heavens Above! (1963)

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AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

This satirical comedy takes aim at the sacred cow of organized religion, which is thoroughly and gleefully gored. Reverend Smallwood (Peter Sellers) is the fundamentalist minister assigned by mistake to a wealthy parish. He shocks the congregation when he gives charity and shelter to wandering gypsies, appoints a black man as his assistant, and converts the Lady Despard into his spiritual flock of followers. The Despard family holds the Tranquilax medicine fortunes, and the stockholders revolt when Lady Despard donates a mansion to house some skid row bums. The Reverend's activities cause a ripple affect throughout the community, and the country's economy is jeopardized by plummeting Tranquil stock prices. When the townsfolk are on the verge of running the Rev out of town, the Church and State appoint him Bishop of Outer Space.

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Cast

Peter Sellers
as Rev. John Smallwood
Cecil Parker
as Archdeacon Aspinall
Isabel Jeans
as Lady Despard
Eric Sykes
as Harry Smith
Brock Peters
as Matthew
Ian Carmichael
as The Other Smallwood
Irene Handl
as Rene Smith
Miriam Karlin
as Winnie Smith
Joan Miller
as Mrs. Smith-Gould
Eric Barker
as Bank Manager
Roy Kinnear
as Fred Smith
Kenneth Griffith
as Rev. Owen Smith
William Hartnell
as Maj. Fowler
Joan Hickson
as Garrulous Housewife
Harry Locke
as Shop Steward
Nicholas Phipps
as Director General
Thorley Walters
as Tranquilax Executive
Basil Dignam
as Prisoner Governor
Colin Gordon
as Prime Minister
Joan Heal
as Disgruntled Housewife
Billy Milton
as Fellowes
Howard Pays
as Astronaut
Mark Eden
as Sir Geoffrey Despard
John Comer
as Butcher
Franklyn Engelmann
as TV Commentator
Tim Brinton
as TV Commentator
Geoffrey Hibbert
as Council Official
Marjie Lawrence
as Quarreling Housewive
Olive Sloane
as Quarreling Housewive
Henry Longhurst
as Deaf Gentleman
Elsie Wagstaffe
as Lady on Parish Church Council
Ian Wilson
as Salvation Army Major
Marianne Stone
as Miss Palmer
Josephine Woodford
as Doris Smith
Drewe Henley
as Doris' Boy Friend
John Harvey
as Prison Officer
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Critic Reviews for Heavens Above!

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Audience Reviews for Heavens Above!

½

Unjustly obscure, "Heavens Above!" is among Peter Sellers' essential movies. But beware, fans of droll British satire: You'll have to forgive an absurd ending which taints the entire film. Sellers plays Rev. John Smallwood, a guileless prison chaplain who, by mistake, is summoned to the small community of Orbiston Parva. The town's revenue depends on a factory that produces Tranquilax, a dubious remedy that is a sedative, stimulant and laxative all at once. A perverse comparison is drawn between this "three in one" panacea and the Holy Trinity. It's unclear whether Smallwood is a righteous thinker or just a simpleton who lucked into a virtuous path (shades of "Being There"'s Chance Gardener). But his gentle admonitions shock a hypocritical population accustomed to lazy, unearned feelings of godliness. Most residents are furious and call for his dismissal, but he does reach the matriarch of the town's wealthy, dominant family. Fearing damnation, she begins an extravagant charity program that frustrates shopkeepers and quickly unbalances the local economy. Meanwhile, passing comments from Smallwood's sermons hurt Tranquilax's credibility and cut into its profits. Can Orbiston Parva survive this disastrous dose of spirituality? "Heavens Above!" takes shots at quite a few targets, from religion to capitalism to class divisions. It's a notably bleak portrait of humanity -- even the poor people are corrupt and ungrateful. There are some nice supporting performances, particularly Brock Peters' turn as a good-hearted garbageman, but Sellers carries the film with a brilliantly understated characterization. Beyond one pratfall into an open grave, he scarcely does anything "funny" in the film and yet "Heavens Above!" is indeed a comedy. It's just too bad that a farcical conclusion wholly violates the film's established, low-key tone.

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer

½

classic charming british satirical comedy with peter sellers as a young vicar trying to bring christian charity to an uptight parish. it makes me smile :)

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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