Scared Stiff (1953)

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– This thing’s dead. – It’s in the right place. Vaudevillian Larry Todd (Dean Martin) thinks he’s killed a mobster in NYC and wants his sidekick Myron Mertz (Jerry Lewis) to get him out of the country on board a ship. Mary Carroll (Lizabeth Scott) inherits her family’s ancestral home on a small island off Cuba and despite warnings and death threats, decides to sail there and take possession of the supposedly haunted castle. Larry sees in a newspaper that he isn’t the killer after all but it’s too late – the ship has sailed. Once on the island the three enter the eerie castle and after seeing the ghost of one of Mary’s ancestors and fighting off a menacing zombie, find the key to the castle’s treasure… The Lewis-Martin shtick may not be to everyone’s taste and in fact they didn’t even want to remake George Marshall’s 1940 Bob Hope hit comedy The Ghost Breakers – because it was just about perfect. But Paramount had their way and it was turned into this (unfortunately monochrome) musical version of the 1909 play by Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard and adapted by Herbert Baker and Walter DeLeon. Norman Lear got his first screenwriting credit here for some rewriting work and Marshall was on directing duties again. Martin and Lewis purvey their spry act and the scene when Myron has to lip sync to Carmen Miranda’s song Mamae Eu Quero as the record sticks on the turntable is a highlight – her own performances aren’t too bad here either! But things really get going in the haunted house. Silly fun with an unexpected cameo (or pair of them.)

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Happy 100th Birthday Dean Martin! Born 06/07/1917

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June 7th marks 100 years since the birth of the King of Cool, Little Ol’ Wine Drinker Dean Martin, that icon of midcentury masculinity. A wonderful singer, his comic chops developed with Jerry Lewis and they made a cycle of amusing films culminating in some good work with live-cartoon auteur Frank Tashlin before making a really great impression as a serious actor in The Young Lions and Some Came Running, where he was teamed with Frank Sinatra. He then became part of The Rat Pack, and later in the Sixties was Matt Helm, that spoof spy par excellence. In between he would become master of the sex comedy with regular forays into comedy westerns. His TV show made him part of everyone’s lives and he remains a keen part of the culture through his masterful performances in all these genres. What a career! He may have died Christmas Day 1995 but there are those of us who still raise a glass to celebrate him. Happy birthday, Mr Martin.

My Friend Irma Goes West (1950)

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The famous radio sitcom gets another big screen go-round in this diverting entertainment whose principal attraction is the Lewis-Martin team, sidekicks to wannabe card sharp John Lund, Hollywood actress Wilson and singer Lynn. Lewis’ goofy scenes with a chimp are very funny and even the PC crowd will forgive him for redding up as an Indian. (Lewis, that is.) With gangsters, kidnapping, a loony tunes fake producer, TV stardom, and a typically good music track by Leigh Harline. Written by Cy Howard and Parke Levy, directed by Hal Walker.