Sunday, September 07, 2003


A very funny satire (fairly over-the-top for the early 50's, I would imagine) of TV game shows that remains relevant today. Ronald Colman is Beauregard Bottomley, an unemployed scholar and maybe the smartest man alive; he lives in a Hollywood bungalow with his sister, Barbara Britton. It's not clear why he doesn't have a job, but consistent characterization is not the film's strong suit. He applies for a job working on demographics for Milday Soap Company ("the soap that sanctifies") as they are beginning to test a new hand soap that doubles as a toothpaste. In his meeting with Milday's president, Burnbridge Waters (Vincent Price), Colman makes a joke about foaming at the mouth and Price refuses to hire him. To get revenge, Colman becomes a contestant on a TV quiz show that Milday sponsers. He knows all the answers and keep returning week after week, doubling his winnings and threatening to bankrupt the company. Price hires a very smart and lovely lady, Flame O'Neill (Celeste Holm), to probe him for his weakness. Meanwhile, Colman's sister falls for Art Linkletter, the host of the quiz show and soon, Colman is in love with Holm. Then things really start getting wild.

The whole cast is good here, but Price is the standout, being very funny in a way that he was never allowed to be again once he was typecast as a horror star. His character is a pretentious cad who slips into trances in the middle of casual conversations; his underlings say that he is "no longer on this plane." Linkletter is much better than I would have expected, considering his real-life TV host duties and the fact that this is his only movie acting job ever. The Milday headquarters is a surreal place with sculptures of human arms (a la Cocteau's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST) jutting from the walls, holding soap bubbles, and disembodied voices serving as receptionists. Ellye Marshall (later one of the CAT-WOMEN OF THE MOON) is fun as Frosty, a bit player in the movies ("she does her work a little bit here, a little bit there...") who is a neighbor of Colman's. There is clear evidence of one major deleted scene toward the end with Price in a dripping wet suit--we have no idea how he got that way. Caesar is Colman's parrot, voiced by Mel Blanc, who is always asking for a drink. A very funny movie which doesn't crop up on cable much but is now available on DVD.

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