Hot Millions (1968): Till’s Caper Film, Starring Peter Ustinov and Maggie Smith

Eric Till directed Hot Millions, a quasi-funny caper picture, penned by Ira Wallach and star Peter Ustinov.

Con artist Marcus Pendleton (Peter Ustinov) has just been released from prison for embezzlement. He has emerged into a new technical world, defined by computers. He convinces programmer Caesar Smith to follow his dream of hunting moths in the Amazon Rainforest.

Assuming Caesar’s identity, he begin working at the London offices of American conglomerate called Tacanco. While Pendleton fools Executive Vice President Carlton Klemper (Karl Malden), another Tacanco executive, Vice President Willard Gnatpole (Bob Newhart), is suspicious.

As Caesar Smith, Pendleton uses the company’s computer systems to send cheques to himself under various aliases all over Europe. For his Paris company the cheques go to ‘Claude Debussy,’ while in Italy they go to ‘Gioachino Rossini,’ both famous composers.

He meets and marries Patty Terwilliger Smith (Maggie Smith), an inept secretary and frustrated flautist. As Caesar, he now has the problem of hiding his hot money. To avoid discovery of his fraud, the couple flee to Brazil, soon followed by Klemper and Gnatpool.

But the now-pregnant Patty found this foreign money and invested it in the same companies that Pendleton created, thus making a profit for Tacanco. Patty explains her desire to have the baby back in England and so contacted Klemper and Gnatpool to ‘visit.’ She persuades Klemper to rehire Pendleton as Treasurer for Tacanco seeing that since it was his genius that created the fraud he would be the best one to spot them and that he would not steal from his company.  Though unhappy with his new legal status, Pendleton agrees.

The film ends with Pendleton conducting an orchestra, with Gnatpole and Klemper in the audience. Patty, in advanced pregnancy, is the flautist. While finishing the piece, she realizes the baby is on the way–Pendleton then whispers, “What… now?”

The music score was composed by Laurie Johnson, featuring the single “This Time” by Scottish singer Lulu. 

End Note

I am grateful to TCM for showing this rarely seen comedy on April 16, 2019.

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