During a high profile Mafia testimony case in California's Riverside County, a hired killer checks-in a hotel room near the courthouse while his next door depressed neighbor wants to commit suicide due to marital problems.
Dino, the charming and lecherous Las Vegas singer, stops for gas on his way to Hollywood in Climax, Nevada. The oily gas station attendant is Barney Millsap, a would-be lyricist who writes pop songs with Orville Spooner, the local piano teacher. By disabling Dino's car, Barney contrives a scheme to have Dino sing one of their songs on an upcoming TV special. To entertain Dino, Barney contacts the village tart, Polly, employing her to pretend to be Orville's wife, Zelda, for a night. She doesn't like Dino, but does love being Orville's surrogate wife. Dino goes to a bar, where he meets the real Zelda, and they spend the night together while Polly spends it with Orville. Written by
Did you know that there are two released versions of this film? The European release is slightly different from the American release. I have just seen the European version in a sparkling print shown in New York. The tint of the American prints seem to be a darker than the European print. The biggest difference is the trailer scene between Dean Martin and Felicia Farr. Wilder was forced to re-shoot the scene by the American censors. In the European version, there is no doubt that Martin and Farr have a sexual encounter during their night together. This makes the film stronger, but the American scene is much, much funnier and we are left with a doubt as to whether Dean and the pianist's wife had a one night stand.
Seeing this film with an audience was a revelation! The jokes work 99% of the time and laughter filled the theater from the first frame until the last frame. I do feel that with Kim Novack and Ray Walston in pivotal roles, we are given the bus and truck company instead of the heavy hitters. What a film this would have been had these roles been played by Marilyn Monroe and Peter Sellers! Jack Lemmon would have been an excellent choice as well for the Walston role. Now Walston is fine; he is a skillful comic actor but he lacks a certain charisma which prevented him from becoming a top star. Novack, while never a great actress, actually plays the comedy quite well. It is a pleasant surprise. I have also been bothered by Ian Freebairn-Smith's dubbing of Walston's singing voice in the two songs "Sophia" and "All the Livelong Day". Walston had a musical comedy background and sang in the movies "Damn Yankees" and "South Pacific". Maybe the vocals were recorded while Peter Sellers was still on the project. Of course, Dean Martin is perfect in this film. He plays himself, or shall I say he plays his known caricature, and he does it beautifully. He proves what a fine comedian he has always been. Take that Jerry!
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