Friday, June 29, 2007


This was an early entry in the "black comedy" genre, and though it may have seemed daring in its day, it feels rather dated now. The film starts with a murder, which we find out is actually part of a live TV drama being directed by a frantic Glenn Ford. His doctor tells him that stress is making him sick, but the doc doesn't know the half of it: Ford's about to take on the assignment of writing a movie for Alfred Hitchcock, and he's trying to figure out how to deal with a blackmailer who wants lots of money to turn over some old nudie shots of his wife (Debbie Reynolds) who has just become the toast of Broadway in a new musical. Ford thinks he'll have to sell their new, spacious suburban house (to which they are having a backyard gazebo added) to raise the money, and to get Reynolds (who is in the dark about the blackmail) to go along with his plan, he has started booby-trapping the house, mostly its plumbing system, so nothing is working like it should. When Ford asks friend (and district attorney) Carl Reiner, in the guise of needing to know for a script, how to deal with a blackmailer, Reiner suggests murder, and Ford decides to plot the perfect crime. He sets everything up one night, and does manage to shoot and kill a figure in the dark, though (in a genuinely funny sequence which includes a phone call from Hitchcock) most everything else goes wrong. He buries the body in the gazebo's foundation, then discovers the next day that the blackmailer was killed in his own apartment by someone else. Naturally, Ford wonders who the hell is buried in the gazebo, and soon, heavy rains and an eager construction crew threaten to bring evidence of Ford's crime to the surface. It's a comedy, so through some torturous, last-minute plot developments, it turns out that Ford didn't actually kill anyone, though there is indeed a dead body under the gazebo. Ford is front and center for almost every scene in the movie and he is mostly up to the task, though the writing sometimes lets him down, and the frantic pace of the film is a bit too much--it feels like Ford is working too hard at being "on" all the time, rather like James Cagney in his equally frantic turn in ONE TWO THREE. John McGiver is a construction worker who pronounces the title edifice, "gaze-bow," Martin Landau has a small role as a thug, and most amusing is Doro Merande as a shrieking maid. [TCM]

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