Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Collection - Vol. 1 (The Caddy / Jumping Jacks / The Stooge/My Friend Irma / My Friend Irma Goes West / Sailor Beware / Scared Stiff / That's My Boy)
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This 4 disc set includes 8 movies - My Friend Irma, My Friend Irma Goes West, That's My Boy, Sailor Beware, Jumping Jacks, The Stooge, Scared Stiff, and The Caddy.
A nightclub act with a handsome singer and an anarchic monkey-boy became a potent box-office force in the early 1950s. Although their wild live antics never translated intact to the screen, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were an instant movie hit; they had two films in the box-office top ten of 1951, and another two in the top ten of 1952. Paramount repays this effort with its Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Collection, Volume One, which gathers most of their early efforts at the studio.
Martin and Lewis were introduced in 1949's My Friend Irma, a big-screen version of a popular radio show. The boys are in support, but their high jinks were the hit of the movie, and their portion of screen time ballooned in My Friend Irma Goes West, which they basically take over. Both movies are enjoyable comedies, and especially in the sequel Lewis's lunatic style of mugging, vocal calisthenics, and physical shtick makes him look like an animal uncaged.
Not included in this set is their first starring vehicle, At War with the Army. The next six consecutive films are here, beginning with one of their best, 1951's That's My Boy. Jerry plays the athletically hopeless son of a famous football hero (Eddie Mayehoff, a funny man). It's a measure of how much Lewis had grabbed the public's imagination that Dino doesn't show up until the film is 20 minutes old. (Lewis later wrote that he arranged for "That's Amore" to be included in The Caddy to bolster Martin's popularity.) Also from 1951, Sailor Beware is a service comedy with some hilarious sequences--Lewis conducting a male chorus, for instance, or undergoing a slightly surreal medical exam--and the team still has a freshness despite the movie formula. Their timing together in the punchdrunk-boxer routine shows some of the chemistry they must have had onstage.
Jumping Jacks (1952) is the least of Martin & Lewis's service comedies, with Lewis as a showbiz performer who pretends to be in the military as a favor to Dean. The Stooge, same year, is one of their best teamings, this time with a touch of pathos along with the laughs: Martin is a self-centered singer who can't acknowledge that his hired stooge is the reason his act is boffo. Along with the backstage stuff, the movie demonstrates how skilled Lewis's singing was, even in a comic purpose.
1953's Scared Stiff is a warmed-over remake of the Bob Hope comedy The Ghost Breakers, and shows that the boys were overworked; the story is lame and the clowning feels more desperate (although Lewis has a few moments imitating co-star Carmen Miranda). In The Caddy, from the same year, Martin indulges his real-life passion for golf, and Lewis plays the neglected caddy. It's a return to form, borrowing a Stooge vibe, and boasts an odd framing story with the boys playing a nightclub act very much like Martin & Lewis.
Unless you're already a fan, your enthusiasm for this set will depend on your tolerance for Jerry Lewis and his manic, childlike dementia. Either you'll laugh, resist, or become fascinated at the naked, look-at-me neediness of his act. Dean Martin can be appreciated for the difficult job of playing straight man to this craziness (notice, too, how his singing voice comes into its own, from imitation Bing Crosby in the first couple of pictures to the familiar, relaxed style of vintage Dino). The DVD set provides no supporting features, but this is the first chapter of a hugely profitable and popular showbiz phenomenon. Just one more thing: "Who's your little whoozis? Who's your toitle dove?" --Robert Horton
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Top customer reviews
You can see their progression as actors as the set moves into their career. By the time you get to the last film of this set they have improved immensely, becoming actors, even.
My Friend Irma***
This is a loose translation of a radio program in which Martin & lewis were inserted. Certainly, they aren't the stars but they make an incredible impact in their debut. In this one Martin is trying to become a nightclub singer (really?) & is managed by Irma's boyfriend. Lewis is an inept employee of an orange juice establishment. It's pretty thin stuff. Lewis dominates the scenes with his over-the-top antics. Martin is more than adequate as an actor.
My Friend Irma Goes West***
By the time this sequel was made Martin & Lewis were the stars & the whole original premise of the radio show becomes secondary or is scrapped. It is interesting to see Las Vegas so young in its life yet to have all of its bright lights. Martin is going west assuming he has been awarded a movie contract & the other characters are along for the Lewis rollercoaster. Even with only his second film Lewis is already polarizing the audience: They think he's the biggest fool or the gretest comedian ever.
This was the team's first true starring vehicle. It's somewhat of an improvement but by now the Martin & Lewis characters are set. Martin is the smooth ladies' man & crooner, Lewis is inept, shy, sickly & sometimes allergic to women. Corinne Calvet makes an appearance as an ice queen that no man can get at. Highlight of the film is Lewis preparing for his boxing match. The routine in the locker room is hilarious as is the scene when they get in the ring. Truly classic.
That's My Boy**
There's so little that's believable in this film it's a near waste of time. Eddie Mayehoff ii his screen debut is nothing short of a ham. His character is nothing more than a caricature. Martin & Lewis are unbelievable as high school graduates about to enter college, none of it rings true. Once again Lewis walks off with the highlights as he becomes the hero by winning a football game.
By this time Martin & Lewis are becoming actors. The service comedy routine had already gone well twice with the team so a third one was done. Martin & Lewis have become paratroopers which is a great setup for Lewis: How much funnier can it get when a man can't even fold his own parachute when his life is at stake?
This film actually gives the team a script where they prove their acting mettle. Martin wants to make it on his own as a singer but he's too vanilla without a comedic partner. He ditches one to go to solo but he bombs. He's then teamed up with Lewis & they become a sensation. Martin doesn't want to give Lewis credit in the team or their success nor does he believe Lewis is the reason he's successful. The Stooge allows the team to be more themselves & has some quality moments.
This film is a remake of Bob Hope's The Ghostbreakers. It's not just a remake, it's almost the same film. The only difference is the Martin & Lewis parts are, essentially, the Bob Hope character split into two parts. It's a good vehicle for the team.
This film along with Jumping Jacks are the highlights of this set. Lewis is the son of a golfing great & has great potential himself except he can't play in front of people. Martin is the son of a fisherman but gets seasick. Lewis is engaged to Martin's sister though Martin & Lewis haven't met one another yet. Lewis is, of course, inept as a department store employee & has a scene where he wreaks havoc in the store. Then Lewis gets the idea of starting a golf instruction school. Martin becomes his protegee & they have immediate success. Golf greats have cameos in the film. This role for Lewis is actually the most mature of his roles in this set. This is also the film that Features the song "That's Amore".
This set has good value & is great for Lewis fans.
All the early films are here (with only "At War With The Army" curiously missing from the line-up). It's interesting to see Dean & Jerry's movie debut in "My Friend Irma"---Dean makes an impressive showing as smooth as his singing, while Jerry looks as if he's barely graduating from high school! The film was a big hit, which was naturally followed up with a sequel, "My Friend Irma Goes West". This time around, the boys' characters were integrated firmly in the plot, gravitating toward equal billing with the cast. From that moment on, there was no stopping them.
The 2 "service" comedies here, "Sailor Beware" & "Jumping Jacks", are the most enjoyable outings of their kind since Abbott & Costello did their part for WWII a decade earlier.
My favorites? "That's My Boy", an early 1951 effort, has a good story with Jerry as the frail son of an old college sports hero (a blustery Eddie Mayhoff in a hilarious supporting role), who tries to make good with the help of current BMOC (Dean). "Sailor Beware" is gag-packed Navy fun from start to finish. "The Stooge" is a semi-autobiographical tale combining laughs and poignancy; it also proved that the boys could handle dramatic elements in their storylines as well. "Scared Stiff" goes for atmospheric chills & chuckles at a creepy Cuban estate. It even borrows elements from Bob Hope's "The Ghost Breakers" comedy (dead bodies, a creepy mansion, zombies)---even both Hope & Bing Crosby make cameos at the end of the film. Finally, "The Caddy" is one of their best, a bright, snappy comedy which starts off on the right foot with the boys performing on stage.
It's about time Paramount acknowledged these boys' contribution to entertainment. Can't wait for Volume 2!
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