The author of a recent book in appreciation of Lewis' film work, Enfant Terrible! notes that he's been honored primarily not in the US but in France, by "those incomprehensible hedonistic strangers across the sea." This set affords an opportunity to reappraise his standing in the cinema, and I find myself falling in with the hedonistic strangers in appreciation of his considerable talents.
I can remember as a kid laughing my head off in the theater watching Who's Minding the Store? (not included in this set), but it wasn't until I saw Martin and Lewis on the Colgate Comedy Hour shows on DVD that I had any idea of his range and versatility. Then I saw the first Dean and Jerry movie, My Friend Irma, a film based on a radio show, and thoroughly forgettable but for one thing: the Martin/ Lewis interplay. Paramount long ago saw what I'm just finding out, and the duo made sixteen movies together.
Only their last film in that series is included in this set, The Stooge, from 1953, in which, as Leonard Maltin has noted, Lewis shows hidden depths as an actor. His first solo outing, The Delicate Delinquent (1957) is surprisingly poignant, with only intermittent comic bits. This unimaginably rich set of ten films from 1953 to 1965 may not convert staid critics on this side of the Atlantic, but it certainly will prove the Lewis lover's cup of tea. The films are on ten single sided DVDs in five slimline cases which fit in a box set. The slim cases are too thin to comfortably hold two discs, however, and plastic pieces had broken off in all the cases I opened. The DVDs were still OK though (single sided discs are tougher than double sided ones), and except for that problem this is an attractively packaged set.
The ten films are in widescreen, four in black and white and six in color. In chronological order they are: The Stooge (1953, black and white), The Delicate Delinquent (1957, black and white), The Bell Boy (1960, black and white), Cinderfella (1960, color, with Ed Wynn as the fairy godfather), The Errand Boy (1961, black and white), The Ladies Man (1961, color), The Nutty Professor (1963, color, special edition), The Patsy (1964, color), The Disorderly Orderly (1964, color, with an opening song by Sammy Davis Jr.), and The Family Jewels (1965, color, in which Lewis plays six roles). There's not much information on the box, but many films include trailers and extra features, listed inside the DVD cases. The piece de resistance is a personal note from Jerry slipped into the box, expressing his hope that the Martin/ Lewis films will also soon make it to DVD. A sentiment we fans, mon ami, fervently echo.