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 - it told about a London gang of double-crossing diamond thieves planning a heist of a jewelry store; the film's title reference to 'Wanda' was the name of a tropical angelfish pet, and the name of one of the main characters; the film's tagline was: "A TALE OF MURDER, LUST, GREED, REVENGE, AND SEAFOOD":

  • two Americans involved in a diamond store heist caper were: lunatic ex-CIA hitman and unintelligent, shady "weapons man" and safecracker Otto West (Kevin Kline), and clever and seductive con artist and sexy jewel thief Wanda Gershwitz (Jamie Lee Curtis); the two partners Wanda and Otto claimed that they were a brother-sister team, but were actually lovers behind the back of robbery mastermind George Thomason (Tom Georgeson), who thought Wanda was his girlfriend; George shared an apartment at Kipling Mansions with his stuttering assistant, animal lover Ken Pile (Michael Palin)
Four Jewelry Heist Plotters

Wanda Gershwitz (Jamie Lee Curtis)

Otto West (Kevin Kline)

Ken Pile (Michael Palin)

George Thomason (Tom Georgeson)
  • the heist sequence in London's Diamond House jewelry store (in the Hatton Garden commercial zone) was violent and brief; following the successful jewelry heist of 20 million pounds worth, the getaway limo driven by Ken nearly ran over an elderly lady while walking her three pet dogs, and George (not wearing his black ski-mask) in the front passenger seat was positively identified by her; the diamond loot was initially hidden in a rundown storeroom safe; the plan was for the group to rendezvous 72 hours later at Heathrow Airport to flee the country, but then double-crossing George returned and absconded with the stolen diamonds and hid them elsewhere (off-screen, in a locked safe deposit box somewhere), meanwhile, Wanda and Otto were planning to betray both George and Ken ("Cockney klutzes!"), seize the diamonds, and flee the country early; Otto was unaware that Wanda was also going to betray him
  • after the exhilarating robbery, Wanda and Otto worked together to report George to the police; as George's apartment door was being pounded on by authorities, he hid the safe deposit box key in a plastic container of fish food and tossed it out the kitchen window into a planter; he was arrested and evidence was found from the crime scene (splinters of glass) on his pants leg
  • the wily and seductive femme fatale Wanda developed a strategy that might help her cause to find the local of the hidden diamonds - to befriend George's conservative and stuffy British barrister Archie Leach (John Cleese), an unhappily-married lawyer in a loveless marriage to Wendy Leach (Maria Aitken)
  • in George's and Ken's apartment, Wanda experienced complete sexual arousal, especially 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 and spread her legs
  • meanwhile, Ken retrieved the fish food container (with the key) and returned to the apartment; he interrupted Wanda and Otto frolicking in the bedroom, and Wanda solely witnessed his hiding of the key in his tropical fish aquarium's 'treasure chest'; afterwards, when Ken was distracted by Otto pretending to be a homosexual to mislead him, Wanda snatched the key and put it in her own locket (engraved with 'W')
  • in a line-up, George was identified by the elderly woman as the driver who nearly ran over her dogs; to learn more about George's case, and to possibly disrupt it by improperly speaking to Archie although she was a potential defense witness in the case, Wanda visited the barrister in his law office, kissed him, and propositioned him; shortly later, she assured him: "I don't want you for your conversation"
  • in a clever cross-cutting sequence, two bedrooms were contrasted - the one where Otto was making passionate love to Wanda (he prefaced love-making by smelling his armpit and blowing up his boot - a disguised symbol of erection), and in the Leach's bedroom where Archie and his self-absorbed wife Wendy coldly undressed and paid no attention to each other
  • throughout the remainder of the film, there were many failed attempts of stammering, animal-loving hitman Ken Pile who was ordered by George to assassinate old lady witness Mrs. Eileen Coady (Patricia Hayes); she was a threatening, matronly, key eye-witness to the diamond robbery; instead, Ken accidentally and cruelly killed her three cherished Yorkshire Terrier pet dogs instead (the first was mauled by an attack Doberman, the second was run-over and flattened by Ken disguised as a taxi driver, and the third was crushed by a falling safe)
  • although Otto was extremely jealous and threatened the manipulative Wanda on her way to meet clandestinely with barrister Archie in his house: ("Touch his dick and he's dead!"), she was determined to get "friendly" with Archie; during their brief liaison, Archie called her: "the sexiest, most beautiful girl I have ever seen in my entire life," but Otto was listening in, interrupted, and again jealously insisted that Wanda not go all the way with him; Wanda realized that she had dropped her 'W' locket (with the key inside) on the floor, but then, they both had to sneak out of the house when Archie's wife Wendy Leach unexpectedly returned home; with the same first initial on the necklace locket, when Wendy viewed it, she assumed it was a gift from Archie for her
Archie's "What It's Like Being English" Speech
  • during another secret rendezvous meeting at the vacant 2B apartment of a legal friend named Patrick Balfour (who was in Hong Kong), Archie painfully admitted his British stoicism to Wanda in a speech, explaining how he was cursed, before she agreed to be seduced, in order to help locate her locket: ("You make me feel free...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, we have 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 wanna 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', and they proceeded to the upstairs bedroom
Wanda Allowed Herself to be Seduced in Upstairs Bedroom
  • during Wanda's love-making with Archie - she was spied upon 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 could have a brother who's so...?")
Otto's Jealousy Toward Archie and Demand for an Apology
  • Otto had heard enough and barged in to break up the couple, asserting: "Don't call me stupid!"; he 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!"; Otto threateningly dangled Archie outside a 5th floor 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")
  • Wanda objected to Otto's extreme jealousy toward Archie that she felt would jeopardize their ability to find the diamonds; Wanda delivered a scathing indictment of Otto's stupidity and continuing lack of intelligence after he again sensitively asserted: "Don't call me stupid": (Wanda: "Oh, right! 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 of things, OK? Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not 'every man for himself'. The London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked 'em up"); she reminded him about Archie: "You have just assaulted the one man who can keep you out of jail and make you rich"; she was able to get Otto to admit that he should "Apologize!"
  • Otto drove to the Leach house to apologize, where he caught Archie stupidly burglarizing his own home (to acquire the locket); he responded by binding and knocking Archie out until he realized what he had done and fled; Wendy returned and untied Archie, who concealed the locket in his mouth (and then his pocket) and ran out of the house, not to miss another adulterous tryst opportunity with Wanda
  • during another comical scene of lustful Archie with Wanda at the 2B apartment, Archie returned Wanda's locket (with the key), and then from the downstairs as he undressed, he spouted foreign phrases (in Italian and Russian) to an aroused Wanda in the upstairs; he was caught completely naked by an unsuspecting British family in what he thought was a perfect hideaway for having sex; he didn't know that his friend Patrick Balfour had rented out the apartment during his long absence; he was forced to use a strategically-placed framed photo to modestly hide himself; as he returned to the outside of his home, Otto intercepted him, offered a sincere apology, and gave Archie permission to have sex with Wanda ("Just go ahead. Pork away, pal. F--k her blue") - not knowing that Wendy was listening and learned about their adulterous encounters
  • ultimately, the distress caused by the deaths of the elderly lady's pets caused her to have a fatal heart attack; Ken insanely laughed: "She copped it! I did it!"; sensing his imminent freedom, in jail, George was visited by Ken and gave him the go-ahead to purchase four plane tickets to Rio de Janiero that evening, then back to the flat to pack, pick up George, and get the diamonds loot in the safety deposit box at the Cathcart Towers Hotel near the airport before taking off from Heathrow bound for Rio
Otto's Torture of Ken: Gulping Down His Fish, Including His Favorite Tropical Pet Fish Wanda
  • in a farcical scene inside Ken's and George's apartment flat, Otto tortured a bound-up and distressed Ken for the whereabouts of the stolen diamonds, while he was eating chips (with two fries stuck up Ken's nose) - and then scooping up and gulping down Ken's aquarium fish to add to his chips, including his favorite and beloved tropical pet fish (named WANDA) 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!")
  • not knowing that Wanda had the key and still believing the key was in the aquarium's treasure chest, Ken confessed that the diamonds were in a safety deposit box at Cathcart Towers Hotel; Otto phoned Wanda for the safe deposit box key, and forced her to promise that in exchange for the key, the two of them would escape together with the loot to Rio de Janiero
  • meanwhile, during George's trial, defense witness Wanda (as George's alleged lover) provided testimony that definitely incriminated George, and Archie let it slip that he had been unfaithful with Wanda (he called her "darling"); George attempted to attack Wanda and Archie, causing pandemonium and chaos in the courtroom; Archie's already-suspicious wife Wendy who was listening in the balcony approached, slapped Archie and threatened divorce ("You can stick this marriage right in your bottom!")
  • with no other alternative but to go after the diamonds himself with Wanda, Archie drove off with her in his car to George's and Ken's flat to question Ken about their location, even though he knew she was sly and manipulative: "So, you robbed the jeweller's, turned one lover over to the police, kept one to help you find the diamonds, and when he does, you commit perjury"; Wanda gave him a reason to promise to take her to South America with him - she had the key to the safe deposit box
  • Otto intercepted Wanda outside of the flat and took off with her in Archie's car to the airport, while Archie entered the flat and found Ken still tied up; as the excitable Ken stuttered furiously, Archie convinced him to wrote down the name of the airport hotel -- the Cathcart Towers; then, the two set off on Ken's moped to the airport
  • at the airport hotel, Wanda and Otto quickly retrieved the diamonds from the safe deposit box at the Cathcart and acquired their British Airways tickets to Rio at the airport counter; on their way to Terminal 4 and Gate 14, Wanda double-crossed Otto by clubbing him over the head and locking him in a broom closet; Otto regained consciousness, shot his way out of the closet, stole a boarding pass from another passenger, and was about to set off for the plane; behind him, Archie caught up to Otto and confronted him with his own gun, although Otto was able to reacquire his own weapon, lead him onto the tarmac, and have Archie stand in a barrel of waste oil while humiliating and insulting him (and the British): "You're the filth of the planet. A bunch of pompous, badly-dressed, poverty-stricken, sexually-repressed football hooligans"
  • the vengeful Ken also arrived after being conveyed down the luggage chute - he was spotted driving a steamroller toward them; Otto further taunted Ken ("It's K-k-k-ken c-c-coming to k-k-k-kill me!") before backing up and accidentally planting his two feet into fresh cement and becoming stuck; Ken ran over Otto and flattened him; due to his tremendous joy, Ken realized he had been 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 could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?"), but found himself about to be arrested; it was revealed that Archie had run onto the plane to join Wanda, and the miraculously-alive Otto appeared briefly clinging to their plane window, but was unable to hold on during take-off
  • in the film's epilogue, it highlighted the futures of the cast members: "Archie and Wanda were married in Rio, had seventeen children, and founded a leper colony. Ken became Master of Ceremonies at the London Sea World. Otto emigrated to South Africa and became Minister for Justice"

Ken's Pet Tropical Angelfish - Wanda

Getaway Limo Almost Hit Elderly Lady With 3 Dogs - George Positively ID'd

George's Stuffy British Barrister Archie Leach (John Cleese)

Wily and Seductive Wanda Attempting to Befriend Archie

Wanda's Sexual Arousal by Otto's Foreign Phrases

Ken Hiding Key in Aquarium's "Treasure Chest"

Wanda Retrieving Key and Placing it in Her Own Locket (Engraved with 'W')

Wanda Coming On to Archie in His Law Office (Note Lipstick Smear on His Face)

Otto with Wanda - Contrasted by Archie with His Cold Wife Wendy

Seductive Wanda Arriving at Archie's Home

Otto: "Don't call me stupid"

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

Archie Caught in a Compromising Position in His Friend's Rented Apartment

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

Heart Attack Death of Mrs. Coady

Wendy to Archie in Courtroom: "You can stick this marriage right in your bottom!"

Ken Furiously Stuttering the Name of the Hotel to Archie

Vengeful Ken Running Over Otto With Steam Roller, While His Feet Were Stuck in Cement


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