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Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (1968)

 -  Comedy  -  12 July 1968 (USA)
4.7
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Ratings: 4.7/10 from 352 users  
Reviews: 11 user | 6 critic

An American plans to bilk the British out of some considerable money with the help of an English con artist.

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Writers:

(screenplay), (novel)
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Title: Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (1968)

Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (1968) on IMDb 4.7/10

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
George Lester
...
H. William Homer
Jacqueline Pearce ...
Pamela Lester
...
Fred Davies
...
Lucille Beatty
Nicholas Parsons ...
Dudley Heath
...
Dr. Spink
Colin Gordon ...
Mr. Hartford
...
Dr. Pinto
Sandra Caron ...
Pinto's Nurse
...
Spink's Nurse
Harold Goodwin ...
Six-Eyes Wiener
Nike Arrighi ...
Portuguese Waitress
John Barrard ...
Zebra Man
Pippa Benedict ...
Fern Averback
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Storyline

George Lester is a man who is chasing rainbows, looking for the pot of gold at the end. When his wife, Pamela grows tired of being dragged all over the world, she leaves him. While she is away, George converts her family home into a discotheque, when she returns, she threatens to send George to jail for fraud, cause she didn't give her approval. George needing some fast bucks, decides to turn to an old cohort of his, William Homer but Willy's a little short. George then decides to steal the plans to a new drill, Pamela's suitor, Dudley Heath is working on. But when George gets the mumps, he can't make it to the meeting place and refuses to give Willy the plans unless he gives him the cash first. And the buyers won't give unless they see the merchandise first. Written by rcs0411@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy

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Details

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Release Date:

12 July 1968 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

First feature film of 'Patrica Routledge'. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Godzilla vs. Megalon (1991) See more »

Soundtracks

Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River
Lyrics by Hal Shaper
Sung by Danny Street
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User Reviews

 
The best thing since moldy sliced bread
21 May 2005 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

I'm well known--well, or at least I'd like to be well known--for arguing that it's a mistake to identify genres with emotional reactions in viewers. For example, I think it's wrong to conflate "horror" and "scary movie", where "scary" is intended to describe the emotional reaction the film is supposed to cause in the viewer. "Horror" instead should describe the content of the film and (maybe) the way that content is handled. Likewise with comedy, although the identification of modern comedies and laughter is probably the most difficult case to disentangle. (If we use the traditional sense of "comedy", the disentangling is much easier.)

I bring all of this up not to bore you, or even to flabbergast you with how pretentious, pompous, or pseudo-intellectual I sound (or whatever other epithet you'd like to apply). I bring it up merely to say that the problems I had with Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River aren't solely based on it being a largely unfunny comedy--which it is. There are unfunny comedies that can be good films. Just like horror films need not be scary to be good, comedies need not be funny, or need not primarily aim for that. But Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River has a host of other problems that make it not succeed above a "D" level, or a 6.

It's difficult, at least this far removed in time, to say what exactly director Jerry Paris was shooting for here. The film is about George Lester (Jerry Lewis). The beginning has a quickly progressing sequence where we see George go from being a kid to meeting his wife and already having problems with her as he takes her on extreme business trips (often in hostile environments) across the globe. This all happens in maybe four or five minutes. The common theme throughout these all-too-quick scenes, and the gist of the film, is that George is a cross between a misguided dreamer/entrepreneur and a con-man/shyster.

Unfortunately, this opening sequence was maybe the best thing about Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River. There was a good story in following George as he grew up, met his wife and went on crazy business trips. Much of the opening is funny. This material should have been stretched into feature length.

But instead, Paris and writer Max Wilk, adapting his own novel for the screenplay, give us a very convoluted story set while George and his wife, Pamela (Jacqueline Pearce), are getting divorced. The film ends up being about a confused scheme to bilk some oil sheiks out of £50,000 and at the same time, get George's wife back into his arms. The premise isn't bad, but the script and the direction are a mess.

It doesn't help that Paris seems like he tried to reel Lewis in a bit--or maybe Lewis was trying to appear relatively more serious and sophisticated. Whatever the cause, the result is that Lewis is a bit boring and uncharismatic, and when he tries to do more manic comic bits, they tend to fall flat. Constructing the plot so that Lewis is stuck at home, mostly not interacting with others, wasn't a great idea either. It's like a literal representation of "phoning in" a performance. At the same time, it's clear that Paris was often going for a "madcap comedy", but he achieves neither a convincing "madcap" feeling nor many laughs.

Pearce's performance is decent, but she seems to be in the wrong film. Her tone doesn't match anyone else's. There are also two very good supporting actors, Terry-Thomas, as fellow shyster H. William Homer, and Patricia Routledge, as Lucille Beatty. Both do the best job they can given the script and direction problems, but neither quite manage to take off--either they just can't muster the momentum to take over as they need to, or they weren't allowed to.

It's not that the film is a complete disaster. There are occasional sections that work, such as the beginning, mentioned above. There are also occasional sections that are funny, such as the idea of turning the house into a restaurant/disco, and the scenes featuring Fed Davies (Bernard Cribbins) in his second job (although the fact that he had two jobs wasn't explained very well). More often, there are scenes that might make you smile. But overall, the film is quite a trainwreck, because of the bad story/script and direction, despite the fact that the ending is satisfying, and the actors keep doing their best to surmount the difficulties.

Also on the positive side, the cinematography is crisp ad colorful if not particularly innovative, and the sets/locations are occasionally attractive. But this is not nearly enough to recommend the film.

I don't think I've seen any of Paris' other films yet, although I've seen a lot of his television work, which was often quite funny--he's directed episodes of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (1961), "Mary Tyler Moore" (1970), and "The Odd Couple" (1970), for instance--all excellent shows. Maybe his talent was more suited for filling in 22 minutes of a comedy template than the more free-form structure of a feature film.


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