Sam Adams
June 18, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

After the world’s shortest war — two minutes, 28 seconds, peace treaty included — London’s remaining 20 inhabitants do their best to keep up appearances in this bleak 1969 farce. Even though the BBC has been reduced to a single man wearing an empty television cabinet on his shoulders, and despite their steady mutation into inanimate objects, our band of Britons manage to carry on as before. The cast, credited in order of height, is enough to butter any British-comedy fan’s crumpet: Ralph Richardson, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Marty Feldman, and Spike Milligan. Still, it’s director Richard Lester’s vision of the world as a postapocalyptic junk heap that leaves the strongest impression. A towering pile of mismatched shoes serves as an absurd monument to the dead, and the blackened landscape is shot through with incandescent streaks of nuclear waste. If ”The Bed Sitting Room”’s chaos can’t match the charm of Lester’s ”A Hard Day’s Night,” its catastrophic comedy resonates uncannily with our own topsy-turvy times. MGM apparently agrees: At long last, a release (its first in any home format) is tentatively scheduled for 2005.

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