Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Two con artists (Robert Armstrong and Gertrude Michael), fresh out of jail, start a new scam: they buy a washed-up physical fitness magazine and re-launch it as a basically a skin magazine, with near-naked pictures and racy stories. Along with a former partner in crime (James Gleason), they rope in two Olympic athletes (American Buster Crabbe and British Ida Lupino) to front the magazine. With a highly-publicized contest to find the healthiest men and women in the world, the magazine is a success. Crabbe figures out what’s going on and realizes he can't get out of his contract, so he and Lupino negotiate to get their hands on a moribund health farm that came as part of the magazine deal. They get the place in shape, get the contest winners to work there as health instructors, and the place is a hit. When the publishers arrive, intending to get some relaxation among the beautiful people, Crabbe and Lupino force them to participate fully in the exercise routines and wind up in full control of the farm.

This comedy is a pre-Code treat; even as the skin-peddlers are presented as the bad guys, the movie’s main attraction is the near-naked flesh, both male and female, of the athletes and contest winners, including a brief scene of full-behind nudity in the men's locker room. Apparently the studio, Paramount, actually did hold a contest to find the, um, healthy young folks featured in the farm sequences, then put them in form-fitting exercise outfits that show off plenty of leg and butt and crotch and nipple. Speaking of which, there is a very funny moment early on with Gertrude Michael ogling Crabbe's package through her binoculars. Crabbe, who won a gold medal at the 1932 Olympics and went on to fame as Tarzan and Flash Gordon, is essentially playing a version of himself; he has an odd accent and seems a bit stiff, but does the wholesome but sly persona well. There's a stage show bit called "Symphony of Health" which is the movie's first excuse for showing off lots of flesh; the second excuse is the amusing climactic sequence in which the staff drag all the guests out of bed at the crack of dawn to exercise. One of the gems on the Universal "Pre-Code Hollywood Collection" boxed set. [DVD]

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