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Kiss Me, Stupid
USA 1964
Directed by Billy Wilder
Running time 126 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1 stars


It is not hard to believe that this sex comedy was considered scandalous in the coy early 1960s and  but today it will simply be condemned as embarrassingly unfunny.

Penned by Wilder and L.A.L Diamond in the tradition of their hits Some Like It Hot and The Apartment, and adapted from a stage play by Anna Bonacci with the much more interesting tilte "L'Ora della Fantasia", Kiss Me Stupid stars Dean Martin as a big-time Las Vegas crooner on the way to L.A.who ends up in a crummy burgh called, of all things, Climax. There he falls in with Orville (Ray Walston) and Barney (Cliff Osmond) wannabe songwriters who trick him into staying overnight so that they can peddle him some tunes. The madly jealous Orville figures that Dino will try to bed his wife, Zelda (Felicia Farr), and that she will be up for it, so he sends her packing to her mother’s and gets local sex-worker Polly (Kim Novak) to take her place.

Kim Novak, doing a kind of flubby Marilyn Monroe thing, and Dino, rather sadly parodying his own image as a playboy Lothario have much to regret by their involvement.  The chronically unfunny Ray Walston in a role originally occupied by Peter Sellers who had to quit after a heart attack and Cliff Osmond  as his chronically mugging round out the feeble attempts to be funny. Only Felicia Farr emerges with any grace from the try-hard affair.

Although manifesting the tropes of  typical 1950s/early 60s Hollywood prurience, Wilder and Diamond push the sexually repressive mores of the time by having the wife-swapping gag take a turn for the real (at least in the European release, the American cut was more guarded). It’s an interesting development that throws conventional morality into question but as far as the film is concerned at best it’s the baby in the bathwater. It's a pity that this wasn't played as a straight drama or at least a dramedy - it couldn't have been worse.

 

 

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