When I was a wee child I remember being entertained by these 50s and 60s comedies I would occasionally come across while flipping through the channels. I can remember The Great Race (1965), Operation Petticoat (1959) and The Odd Couple (1968) the most. On a more vague front I think I saw a few more Jack Lemmon comedies but can’t remember what they were. I was also entertained by some Danny Kaye flicks too now that I think about it. Even though I was born at the tail end of the sixties, I still equate these movies, especially Lemmon’s with my childhood making my sole motive for wanting to review his How To Murder Your Wife, which I’ve never seen, or heard of till now, purely nostalgia based.
Jack Lemmon plays Stanley Ford, a rich, playboy cartoonist, who goes to extremes with his art. He’s famous for writing about the exploits of this secret agent he created called, Brash Brannigan, but to do it authentically he plays out each scenario before hand while having his man-servant, Charles Firbank (Terry-Thomas), photograph all of it. Then he can say I don’t put Brash through anything I can’t do myself. This will come back to bite him in the ass in the final act of the film.
The movie actually starts out with Thomas breaking the fourth wall and telling us what he does and who he does it for, while taking us on a tour of Ford’s posh New York townhouse. The movie starts out establishing Ford’s bachelor life and how much and his circle of friends love it, despite some of them being married. His lawyer and long time friend, Harold Lampson (Eddie Mayehoff), keeps telling him it’s unnatural for someone his age (38) to be unmarried. While attending a bachelor party for another friend, Toby (Max Showalter/The Monster That Challenged The World), who’s impending marriage fell apart moments before the party, he becomes unexpectedly smitten with this Italian chick (Virna Lisi, her name is never mentioned in the movie) that pops out of the cake.
He wakes the next morning, with a massive hangover and no memory of having gotten married to her. Complicating matters further he learns she speaks no English. The movie then takes us through an extended period of time as Ford becomes domesticated and routinely sexed up by smoking hot Lisi. He gains weight from her extravagant cooking and ends up altering his comic strip to mimic the changes in his life. She eventually learns English by watching TV at all hours of the night and turns into the “perfect wife,” not in his eyes, but in the eyes of Lampson’s wife, Edna (Claire Trevor), who molds Lisi into her image. She’s not a nice person, by the way.
The straw that finally breaks the camel’s back is when he’s staring at Lisi one morning asleep in bed and contrasting it with the image of her asleep in his bed when they first met, before she became this “wife from hell.” He then decides to kill her. Not in real life, but in the Brash Brannigan comics, vowing to get Brash back to the man he used to be, but Firbank wants him to do it in for real. That’s when we learn his man-servant seems to harbor homicidal tendencies. Of course, Stanley doesn’t do it, but to portray it authentically in the comic he carries out a fake scenario with a dummy. Remember when I said that would come back to bite him in the ass? Well, after his wife wakes up from being drugged by him, she finds him asleep on his drawings and catches a sobering glimpse into how he really feels about her. She then takes off her wedding ring, sets it on the drawing table and leaves.
He can’t find her, even goes to the police for help, but doesn’t think ahead that publishing that comic of Brash doing away with his wife might get dots connected he didn’t intend to have connected. The police arrest him for murder and the movie even chronicles his jail time and his trial. In the end, though, it’s a Jack Lemmon comedy, so we have a happy ending with him getting acquitted, Lisi returning and he realizing how much he really loved her—The End!
Olive Films released the movie on DVD and Blu-ray February 17th.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.66:1 high definition widescreen—English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio—no subtitles. Transfer was very good. Clear and colorful. Audio was very good too.
The only extra is the movie’s theatrical trailer.
If you’re a married man who misses your single life you’ll probably take to this movie like a duck to water for the message here is being a bachelor is good, preferred even, and that women can sometimes be the “enemy” to all that. I’d almost call this a black comedy in disguise. Not a laugh out loud one, more chuckle worthy, but I just laid back, loaded my childhood into the back of my mind and enjoyed the whole thing through those lenses; based on that alone I’m adding this to my collection.
I looked the actors up on IMDB and found out everyone in this movie is dead. Lisi outlived them all though having died last December at the age of 78. I never heard of her before this but she was hot in her prime.