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Dean Martin Double Feature - Who Was That Lady? / How to Save a Marriage (and Ruin Your Life)
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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.
Curtis is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Columbia University who is caught by his wife kissing a foreign exchange student. Martin is his best friend who's a writer at CBS who cooks up a hare-brained scheme to convince the wife that her boring husband is a top FBI agent.
With the CBS prop department providing FBI credentials and a revolver, the game is afoot. When the prop master realizes that the FBI credentials were not being used for a show, he contacts the FBI.
James Whitmore plays the stoic FBI agent who investigates. Of course he gets involved with the antics of Curtis and Martin, especially at the Chinese restaurant with shots fired and television news cameras rolling.
The ending in the basement of the Empire State Building is classic. This black and white 115-minute vehicle delivers a great time if you are into old comedies. Picture and sound quality are excellent. 4 stars
HOW TO SAVE A MARRIAGE (And Ruin Your Life) is a classic battle of the sexes. Dean Martin finds himself embroiled in the battle when he attempts to help his old army buddy save his marriage.
Mistaken identify leads Martin to assume that Stella Stevens is the mistress of his army buddy, Eli Wallach. Martin sets out to woo Stevens in order to save Wallach's marriage.
Of course Wallach's mistress is Anne Jackson (his wife in real life) who lives next door to Stevens. A comedy of errors follows for both men.
Betty Field is wonderful as Thelma, the landlady, whose cynical attitude rubs off on Stevens and Jackson. She has a special moment near the end of the film which is pure irony.
One of the best comedic scenes happens in a church cemetery. It is hysterical.
New York City is the setting. Michael Legrand's music suits this film well, especially the song--Winds of Change--with the Ray Conniff Singers. It's one of those late 60s romantic songs which is fitting for this late 60s romantic comedy. Picture and sound quality are excellent. 4 stars
Sony is fast joining the ranks of Warner Brothers by taking pressed copies of films out-of-print, waiting a few months, and issuing a MOD version at a higher price point. The Sony "Choice Collection" release of "How to Save a Marriage..." is one such title. The transfer used for this MOD is the same as the one used for the OOP The Dean Martin Double Feature - Who Was That Lady / How To Save A Marriage double feature. The differences are the OOP title is pressed and includes a second feature: "Who Was That Lady". Currently *new* copies from marketplace vendors are less than half the price (shipping included) of this MOD. It's the better choice.
The one star is for the MOD release. The OOP version is a 5 star package.