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Money From Home (Blu-ray Review)

14 Aug, 2017 By: Mike Clark

$24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray
Not rated.
Stars Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, Marjie Millar, Pat Crowley.

The first nine of 16 total Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis comedies were in black-and-white, the final seven were in color, and Money From Home (a Damon Runyon racetrack farce about a potentially underhanded steeplechase contest) was first of the latter bunch. Historically more notable, though, is the fact that Money was also shot in 3D, making it one of the relatively few releases with both ‘A’-picture production credentials and a combined 3D/Technicolor pedigree. In other words, MGM’s Kiss Me Kate was obviously an ‘A’-picture but one in godawful, fade-prone Ansco Color — while, say, Paramount’s Jivaro (which was eventually double-billed with Money in my hometown) employed the same 3-D/Technicolor bragging rights in service of a script that combined Fernando Lamas with Brazilian headhunters. This was never the stuff of which ‘A’ universes were fashioned.

Two things. Of the color M&Ls, Money is to me clearly the weakest, and I think most would agree that only 3 Ring Circus is its only bottom-rung rival from those final seven. And also: As with so many 3D pictures, aside from the handful that everyone of a certain age remembers, Money’s 3D engagements didn’t cut too wide a swath. In fact, the picture even went out in 2D when it had its December 31, 1953, national premiere in (per Wikipedia) 322 theaters: a one-shot that I got to see that night at age 6 (thank you, Grandmother Clark). Upon its general release a few weeks later, there were scattered 3D engagements, but it almost seems as if the film has been exhibited to full in-your-face effect more times in modern-era revivals than in 1954. I finally got to see the 3D Money at New York’s Film Forum many years ago in a 3D double bill with Warner’s The Charge at Feather River, and I will forever be grateful to the Forum’s Bruce Goldstein for taking me up into the projection booth to see a lot of serpentine movements of activated filmstrips.

All this is a long way of getting to the fact that a lot of social media folks are already disappointed that Olive’s new Blu-ray release is 2D only, which, among other things, forces the picture to stand on more of its own merits. The 2D print utilized here is pretty much a Technicolor looker — but as ever (1953 aside), I came out of it most impressed by both the electric evening gowns and more comfy relaxin’ garb sported by Money’s femme lead Marjie Millar. Before her career and eventually life ended in extended tragedy following the delayed fallout from a crippling auto accident, dancer-by-trade Millar was arguably the dish-iest of producer Hal Wallis’s contract blondes and one of my first show biz crushes — not just for this movie but for her stint as Ray Bolger’s girlfriend on his ABC-TV show. Later, Dragnet even brought her in to play Jack Webb’s so-called love interest when someone presumably suggested that Joe Friday might need someone to work on his points and plugs to soften his congenital dyspepsia.

With a couple exceptions, the color M&L’s were the team’s best because they had the most sexual tension. (In Living It Up and You’re Never Too Young, these polar opposites even competed for the same woman — something unimaginable with Abbott and Costello, at least on any kind of credible level.) And top of this, Martin got better on both theatrical and TV screens as years progressed at conveying how hacked he could get or, in certain big-scale production numbers, overwhelmed he could become over his partner’s peripatetic screen antics. In Money, neither of these traits fit very well into the narrative. The team’s banter seems half-hearted and tired, which rarely happened in their color films, Lewis spends disproportionate screen time with a drunken jockey played by Richard Haydn, and Dino’s song allocation gets relatively curtailed (this last a problem with 3 Ring Circus as well — which led to a public dustup).

So what do I take from this? Well, this is a relatively lovely Blu-ray to eyeball, even though (per Olive usual), it doesn’t appear that there’s been much of a recent spiff-up beyond what was already in the vault. The movie also suggests that Martin might have made the best Sky Masterson (from the Runyon-Frank Loesser Guys and Dolls) of them all — if someone could have gotten him to be more animated than he is here. And certainly, the Millar saga hasn’t lost any of its poignancy (details are Google-able, and they’re really awful), so there’s the emotional effect of that for those in the know. Historically speaking, Lewis got his own on-screen credit here: “Special Material in Song Numbers Staged by Jerry Lewis.” Nothing like this ever happened again during the team’s tenure, but it is indicative of the atmosphere that led to the 1956 breakup of an act that was as big in its day as Elvis and the Beatles became. Circus, which became Paramount’s Christmas picture at the end of ’54, minimized Martin even beyond his songbook shrinking. Interestingly, the picture sandwiched between the two (Living It Up) gave Martin the best songs from any of their theatrical teamings and remains for many best of the 16.

Except for a very rocky Blu-ray of 1950’s At War With the Army, which has been in Public Domain Hell since the ’70s, this is M&L’s first Blu-ray release — an ironic turn of events, given that Army (which Paramount obviously doesn’t control), Money and Circus were the only M&L’s not included in Paramount Entertainment’s mid-2000s DVD boxed sets of their output. Money eventually got its first DVD release from Legend Films, leaving Circus as the only Martin & Lewis comedy to this day never to get an official home release in any form. In fact, when Turner showed Circus properly letterboxed-for-VistaVision earlier this year, it was the first time I’d encountered it in the accurate aspect ratio in a broadcast presentation.

Getting back to Money, there’s one casting oddity: Pat Crowley, who plays Lewis’s love interest, was later Martin’s in the team’s swansong Hollywood or Bust. That’s the one where Jerry attempts to milk a bull as bare-chested Dino is working on getting Pat down for the count on a blanket, which is far more in the spirit of the team’s ethos.

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