Blu-ray review: “Jerry Lewis at Columbia” (1967 – 1969)

“Jerry Lewis at Columbia” (1967 – 1969)

“The Big Mouth” (1967)

Comedy

Running Time: 107 minutes

Written by: Jerry Lewis and Bill Richmond

Directed by: Jerry Lewis

Featuring: Jerry Lewis, Harold J. Stone, Susan Bay, Buddy Lester, Del Moore, Paul Lambert, Jeannine Riley, Leonard Stone, Charlie Callas and Frank De Vol

Released recently on Bluray from the Imprint label are two Jerry Lewis movies from the time he was at Columbia. Whilst these are not the cream of Lewis’ own oeuvre they still demand to be at least watched and to be seen for what they are, comedies from one of the greatest comedy actors of all time, not only that Lewis was also a great director, writer and producer of his own movies.

“The Big Mouth” (1967) concerns Gerald Clamson a bank examiner who loves fishing on his annual two-week holiday. Unfortunately, one day at the ocean he reels in Syd Valentine, an injured gangster in a scuba diving suit. Syd tells Gerald about diamonds he has stolen from the other gangsters and hands him a map. Gerald escapes as frogmen from a yacht machine-gun the beach. They swim ashore, locate Syd and gun him down. Their leader Thor ensures Syd’s demise by firing a torpedo from his yacht that goes ashore, blowing a crater into the beach. As the police ignore Gerald’s story, Gerald heads to the Hilton Inn in San Diego where Syd claimed the diamonds were hidden. 

There is no doubt about it that there is a difficulty in an actor directing him or herself which has been proven time and again and may be one of the issues in this movie. At times there is at least an impression that Lewis is trying to direct the other actors while doing his own performance at the same time. “The Big Mouth” is too long, to begin with. It is two hours long, and 30 minutes could have been edited from it as easily.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • 1080p high-definition transfer
  • Audio commentary by author/film historian and curator Justin Humphreys (2022)
  • Super-8 version – original cut down ‘Home Cinema’ presentation of the film (20 min)
  • TV Spots
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Textless opening / closing titles
  • Isolated music and effects audio track
  • Photo Gallery

“Hook, Line & Sinker” (1969)

Comedy

Running Time: 92 minutes

Written by: Rod Amateau

Directed by: Jerry Lewis

Featuring: Jerry Lewis, Peter Lawford, Anne Francis, Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, Jimmy Miller, Jennifer Edwards, and Eleanor Audley 

Dr. Scott Carter: “There’s only one decent thing left for you to do: turn yourself in.”

Peter Ingersoll: “Decent thing? That’s insane!”

Dr. Scott Carter: “I’ll be behind you all the way.”

Peter Ingersoll: “Oh, sure you will. A mile behind me.”

Unlike the previous movie in this set that is directed by Lewis this one is not, which means there is more time given to characters, plot and narrative.

In “Hook, Line & Sinker” (1969) Jerry Lewis plays Peter Ingersoll, a typical middle class suburbanite who is living the American dream. He has a boring but steady 9 to 5 job as an insurance salesman, a pretty wife (Anne Francis), two polite children, a comfortable home and a devoted best friend, Scott Carter (Peter Lawford), who also happens to be his personal physician. The only consternation in the household is wife Nancy’s concern about Peter’s costly and self-indulgent hobby of deep sea fishing. Peter’s mundane but comfortable existence comes to an abrupt end when Dr. Carter gives him the stunning news that a recent medical check-up has confirmed that he is terminally ill. Distraught and and depressed, Peter is stunned when Nancy suggests that he forsake his responsibilities as husband and father and enact an audacious plan whereby he will spend his last few months on a solo journey to exotic locations where he can spend his final days fishing. Nancy concocts a plot whereby the entire venture can be financed on credit cards that will never have to be paid. Additionally, his life insurance policy of $150,000 will ensure that his family can live in comfort (this was back in 1969, don’t forget.) Peter is initially reluctant to engage in the scheme but he ultimately concedes. He ends up traveling to exotic locations as he wracks up enormous bills with carefree abandon. In Lisbon, he is shocked when Scott Carter appears unexpectedly with the news that an equipment malfunction on a medical device resulted in the wrong diagnosis. Peter isn’t going to die, but has to pretend he has in order to escape prosecution for the monies owed to the credit card companies. Scott assures him that the statute of limitations last only seven years, after which he can reappear and resume his family life.  By this point, the audience has long since figured out what Peter has to learn belatedly: that the entire plan has been an exercise in deceit on the part of Nancy and Scott. He discovers that the two are having an affair and that Nancy and his kids are in Lisbon, too, where they refer to his best friend as “Daddy Scott” even as their mother shares his bed. Emotionally devastated, Peter concocts a complex scheme of his own to exact revenge on his wife and friend. 

“Hook, Line & Sinker” fares better than many of Lewis’ late career big screen ventures in that the humor, characters and situations are more realistic and believable than those found in most Lewis films. The humor is also a bit more daring than usual, with the habitual abuse of corpses playing a central role in the plot. There are some over the top elements of the film, but for the most part it’s a highly enjoyable, consistently amusing scenario well-played by an energized Lewis, who has a perfect foil in Lawford.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • 1080p high-definition transfer
  • Audio commentary by film historian Peter Tonguette (2022)
  • Full episode of The Dick Cavett Show with Jerry Lewis, recorded in 1972
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Textless opening / closing titles
  • Isolated music and effects audio track
  • Photo Gallery

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