Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

In Charles Crichton's funny madcap caper farce - about a gang of double-crossing diamond thieves, including two Americans who were lovers (Wanda and Otto) but pretended to be siblings, and a stuttering animal lover (Ken):

  • the characters of the Americans involved in diamond heist: lunatic ex-CIA hitman and unintelligent, shady weapons partner Otto West (Kevin Kline) and his clever seductive lover Wanda Gershwitz (Jamie Lee Curtis) (who were pretending to be siblings)
  • the fact of seductive Wanda's complete sexual arousal when she heard foreign languages, evidenced when Otto began speaking in Italian to her: "E molto pericoloso, signorina. Molto pericoloso. (she kissed him and he threw her on the bed) Carissima"; she burst out: "Speak it! Speak it!"; he continued: "Ossobuco milanese con piselli! Melanzane. Parmigiana con spinace!..." as he jumped on top of her
  • the scene of conservative and stuffy British barrister Archie Leach's (John Cleese) painful admission of British stoicism to sexy con artist and jewel thief Wanda in a speech about how he was cursed, before her seduction of him to help in locating her locket: ("Wanda, do you have any idea what it's like being English? Being so correct all the time, being so stifled by this dread of, of doing the wrong thing, of saying to someone, 'Are you married?' and hearing, ' My wife left me this morning,' or saying, uh, ' Do you have children?' and being told they all burned to death on Wednesday. You see, Wanda, we're all terrified of embarrassment. That's why we're so - dead. Most of my friends are dead, you know, in these piles of corpses to dinner. But you're alive, God bless you, and I want to be, I'm so fed up with all this. I want to make love with you, Wanda. I'm a good lover - at least, used to be, back in the early 14th century. Can we go to bed? (She kissed him and answered 'Yeah')
Archie's "What It's Like Being English" Speech
Before Wanda's Seduction, and Otto's Jealousy
and Demands for an Apology
  • the sequence of Wanda's love-making with Archie - spied upon and interrupted by a very jealous Otto who was listening in and resented being called stupid: (Wanda: "He is so dumb...He thought that the Gettysburg Address was where Lincoln lived!...And when he heard your daughter's name was Portia, he said, 'Why did they name her after a car?'"); Otto heard Archie insinuate that he was stupid (Archie: "How come a girl as bright as you girl, has a brother who's so...?"); after breaking the couple up, Otto demanded an apology from Archie and resorted to name-calling: "You pompous stuck-up, snot-nosed, English, giant twerp scumbag, f--k-face dickhead asshole!"
  • the subsequent sequence of Otto's dangling Archie outside a window to force a lengthy apology from him for calling him stupid: ("I apologize...I'm really, really sorry. I apologize unreservedly...I offer a complete and utter retraction. The imputation was totally without basis in fact, and was in no way fair comment, and was motivated purely by malice, and I deeply regret any distress that my comments may have caused you, or your family, and I hereby undertake not to repeat any such slander at any time in the future")
  • the further joke of Otto's stupidity and continuing lack of intelligence, when Wanda (outside Archie's place) delivered a scathing indictment of Otto's intelligence after he again sensitively asserted: "Don't call me stupid": (Wanda: "To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people! I've known sheep that could outwit you. I've worn dresses with higher IQs. But you think you're an intellectual, don't you, ape?...Now let me correct you on a couple things, OK? Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not 'every man for himself', and the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked 'em up"); she reminded him about Archie: "You've just assaulted the man who can keep you out of jail and make you rich"; she was able to get Otto to admit that he should "Apologize!"
  • during another adulterous tryst opportunity between Wanda and Archie, the comical situation when the lustful Archie (who had spouted foreign phrases to an aroused Wanda) was caught in the buff by an unsuspecting British family in what he thought was a perfect hideaway for having sex, forcing him to use a strategically-placed framed photo to modestly hide himself
  • throughout the film, the many attempts of stammering, animal-loving hitman Ken Pile (Michael Palin) to assassinate an old lady named Mrs. Eileen Coady (Patricia Hayes) (a threatening, matronly, key eye-witness to the diamond robbery), but instead he cruelly killed her three cherished pet dogs instead (mauling by an attack dog, flattening and run-over by a taxi, and crushing by a falling safe); in the end, the distress caused by her pets' deaths caused her to have a heart attack
  • the scene of Otto's torture of a bound-up Ken for information about the whereabouts of the stolen diamonds, while he was eating chips (with two fries stuck up Ken's nose) - and then gulping down Ken's pet fish in front of him: ("Where are the diamonds?... There's plenty of time, Ken. I'll just sit here and eat my chips till you tell me. The English contribution to world cuisine - the chip! What do the English usually eat with chips to make them more interesting? Wait a moment! It's fish, isn't it? Down the hatch!")
  • Otto's further taunting of Ken ("It's K-k-k-ken c-c-coming to k-k-k-kill me!") just before the vengeful Ken ran over Otto (with his feet planted in cement) with a steamroller; after flattening Otto (he survived miraculously!), Ken realized that he was cured of his stutter: ("'K-k-k-k-Ken.' You bastard. Hey, I've lost my stutter. It's gone. I can speak. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?")

Wanda's Sexual Arousal by Otto's Foreign Phrases

Otto: "Don't call me stupid"

Wanda: "To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people"

Archie Caught in a Compromising Position

One of Ken's Three Murder Attempts on Mrs. Coady (Her Dog Was Crushed by a Falling Safe)

Otto's Torture of Ken: Gulping Down His Pet Fish Wanda

Vengeful Ken Running Over Otto With Steam Roller


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