I Saw a Film!
This film looks more like something from the war era than something from close to 1960. I suppose this shouldn’t surprise us as plenty of directors (including Taurog who directed this) had their heydays twenty or more years before and weren’t likely to care much about the growing fashions of the youth culture. That culture would have included black people, rock and roll by this time stretching the airwaves, and plenty of denim, leather and loud motors. None of these items appear in said film.
This film largely drops a previous generation’s comic sensibilities (borrowing from noir and walking padded-out suits) onto a movie-going audience that had mostly shifted to young people who would have likely found it aged. Apparently Dean Martin was wanted for the Meeker role of “Mike” (who –it was thought by Russell– played his tough guy too straight). At any rate it’s mostly unfunny and quite predictable. It’s an old premise of a kidnapping that the “victim” soon is sympathetic with and aids in!
What’s interesting about the film isn’t the story, or the romance, or looking at gangling, mannish Russell, but instead the strong women’s roles. Russell is no push-over, she’s savvy and in charge of her career. She at first comes across as a spoiled diva, but soon enough reveals that her enterprise requires her toughness and while the word “bitch” isn’t used, the exact same phraseology of a business savvy woman being unpalatable instead of admirable is employed just as we have heard it employed recently (how things don’t change)! Hell we heard this same complaint a few years ago from Hillary Clinton. Russell’s character even susses out that her kidnappers, while at first brusque and standoffish, soon reveal a side that she can use to her advantage and she just flat out floats her plan to them (they’re not asking for enough cash!). She’s no passive doll in a game beyond her control and that aspect of the film is actually quite fun, and a bit of a surprise from a sixty year old movie. But then we’ve been raised in a world in which we think each generation invents all the progress we’ve benefited from. After all this was Russell’s film company now, and she was doing the hiring.
Not surprisingly the out of date style and tale, despite being a favorite of Russell and despite her being quite strong and enjoyable in it, flopped at the box office and marked the end of her company. The film, according to Wikipedia, made money in frequent TV airings which is where I spotted it originally. For some reason never having much of a feel for her hard-jawed beauty-queen role. Though I was already spoiled by having watched her get old and raspy, poor dear.
So, on the con side you’ve got an elderly style and make, with a bit of violent concussion inducing knocking out from both the kidnappers and Russell herself, on the pro side it’s a woman’s empowerment tale. She dominates her career and even the kidnappers, to great financial and romantic advantage! At one point sneering about marriage as not good for business! I can understand why she considered it one of her best!
This is free on prime and its black and white squareness will suffocate you, but at least Russell comes out on top. Stick to it for the really sloppy drunk on the beach sequence with the gentler of the kidnappers, it reminds one that old Foster Brooks didn’t get that “Hollywood” drunk act from nowhere. Come to think of it, neither did Dudley Moore. Hmm, may need a whole discussion of comic movie drunks.