Dean Martin made quite a few comedies away from the Rat Pack in the 1960s. Most of them were pretty interesting and even the bad ones are worth seeing. This DVD double feature includes one that worked well for me and had me laughing out loud more than a few times and one that didn't work as well and only had me laughing in its last 15 minutes (out of a 115-minute movie).
The good one, HOW TO SAVE A MARRIAGE AND RUIN YOUR LIFE (1968), introduces the necessary characters and relationships and builds up the set of circumstances that leads, quite plausibly, to the misunderstanding that sets the plot in motion. We see how shopgirl Stella Stevens (as beautiful as I've ever seen her) learns something incriminating about her boss (Eli Wallach) that leads to a promotion that buys her silence about the apartment where he keeps a mistress, hence starting the rumor that she herself is the boss's mistress, which leads the boss's best friend, Wall Street investor Dean Martin, to try to save his friend's marriage by seducing the "mistress" away from Wallach and proving to him how unfaithful she really is. When Dean eventually realizes his mistake--and the look on his face in the course of this scene is just priceless--and the extent of the raveling he'll have to do to undo all the unraveling, it just keeps getting funnier. The key here is that for most of the film the audience knows more than the characters do and suspense is generated as we wait for the characters to catch up.
WHO WAS THAT LADY? (1960) never bothers to adequately introduce the characters but instead plunges us into a thoroughly implausible situation with unbelievable, unsympathetic characters whose sheer stupidity is constantly infuriating. Who would believe that Tony Curtis is an assistant professor of chemistry at Columbia University? Or that Janet Leigh would be a glamorous housewife in a lavish Manhattan apartment on an assistant professor's salary? Or that such a professor would have as best friend a CBS writer and swinging bachelor, played by Dean Martin? (Granted, Tony and Janet were married at the time, but these roles just didn't fit them.) To mend things after Janet catches Tony kissing one of his students, Dean comes up with the harebrained scheme of telling Janet that he and Tony are undercover FBI men and the girl with Tony was a "foreign exchange" student under "investigation." Against all common sense, Janet falls for it and all suspension of disbelief goes out the window. Things get more ridiculous until some genuine FBI personnel, well played by John McIntire and James Whitmore, get involved and take some control of the idiotic farce. When actual Russian spies (played by Simon Oakland and Larry Storch) enter the scene, the star trio is forced to really go undercover. Only then, during a finale in the basement of the Empire State Building, with a drugged Tony and Dean thinking they've woken up aboard a Russian sub, do things finally get funny. Interestingly, three of the cast--Leigh, McIntire, and Oakland--all also appeared in PSYCHO that same year.
Both films are presented anamorphically on this DVD. One's in color (HOW TO SAVE A MARRIAGE) and one's in black-and-white (WHO WAS THAT LADY?) and both look flawless.