The Cool Mikado is a British musical film made in 1962, directed by Michael Winner, (who makes a short appearance as an airline passenger a la Hitchcock near the start of the film) and produced by Harold Baim, with music arranged by Martin Slavin and John Barry. It starred Frankie Howerd as Ko-Ko, Lionel Blair and Stubby Kaye. The script was by Michael Winner, from an adaptation by Maurice Browning.
Based on the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera The Mikado, the plot is reset into contemporary Japan as a comic gangster story. The dialogue is largely rewritten, and several of the well known musical items are omitted. The music that remains is re-orchestrated into styles popular in the early 1960s, including the twist, and the Cha-Cha-Cha. Filmed entirely on a sound stage, stock footage was used to provide Japanese atmosphere between scenes. This footage looks like one of the many travelogues for which producer Baim is best known but according to Winner's autobiography this footage was specially shot. Winner credits the film's problems to the fact it was underfunded. No attempt appears to have been made to disguise the stage-bound filming. The colourful sparsely dressed sets, not always tending towards realism, give the film a surreal quality.
This film was Frankie Howerd's first musical, and it led to his starring in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum on stage and in several conventional Gilbert and Sullivan productions, including Sir Joseph Porter in H.M.S. Pinafore and the Learned Judge in Trial by Jury. However, Howerd said that "not only was it the worst film ever made, but was the one production in show-business that I'm positively ashamed to have appeared in".
Hank, the son of American judge Herbert Mikado, refuses to marry Katie Shaw, whom his father wishes him to marry, and so joins the army. He is stationed in Japan where he falls in love with a Tokyo art student, Yum-Yum. However, her fiancé, Ko-Ko, an American gangster operating in Japan, is determined to keep Hank and Yum-Yum apart. Hank's father had also sentenced Ko-Ko's brother to prison.