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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Didja' ever have one of those days?
DVD ReviewAsking Jerry Lewis to play it straight in a comedy is like telling the Little Tramp to shave his mustache. Or having Harpo Marx play a tuba. Unfortunately, a shtick-ed down Jerry is what we get in Don't Raise The Bridge, Lower The River, a laugh-challenged and surprisingly awkward 1968 movie that's one of the lesser entries in the legendary comedian's filmography.
Based on Max Wilk's novel of the same name, Lewis plays George Lester, a transplanted American go-getter in swinging '60s-era London with a knack for get rich quick schemes that most often fail. After one money-wasting venture too many (including turning their quiet countryside manor into a combination discotheque/Japanese restaurant), once-patient wife Pamela (Jacqueline Pearce) has had enough. As part of their divorce settlement, George must not only restore the house back to its original condition but also pay back £25,000 in bills he's accumulated. Piggybank depleted, Lester enlists the services of old friend and conman William Homer (Terry-Thomas) in a plot to show up Pam's snobby lawyer fiancée, Dudley (Nicholas Parsons), by photographing his blueprints for an innovative oil drill.
Once that's accomplished, the boys will wheel and deal with Arab businessmen, collect the profits and oil's well that ends well...? Nope. Shortly before planning to fly to Lisbon to seal the deal, George gets a case of the mumps. But fate steps in when auto mechanic/part-time airline steward Fred Davies (Bernard Cribbins) crashes his moped on the Lester's property and breaks a tooth. Davies laments he's got an impending flight to Lisbon, and nobody wants to look at a "tooth-less steward." With a little help from local dentist Dr. Spink (Michael Bates), the blueprints are sealed inside an unsuspecting Fred's mouth. Given just enough pain medication to get him through his flight, Davies heads directly to Lisbon's equivalent of Spink, Dr. Pinto (John Bluthal), exactly as George envisioned. As Willy anxiously stands by during the procedure with the Arabs waiting to collect, only one of the two pages of the plan are visible. Turns out that Lester hung on to the missing page as collateral to make sure Homer had certified check in hand: no pay, no play. Upon collecting, George is oh-so-happy to live up to his end of the bargain, but one of the parties involved plays double cross, putting him on the hot seat and Willy on the sharp end of a knife held by two unhappy Middle Easterners.
Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River isn't the worst film Jerry Lewis ever made, but the laughs are mere echoes in a canyon. When they do come, many of them are courtesy of the British supporting cast (highlighted by Thomas, Gibbins, and the underused Patricia Routledge of Keeping Up Appearances, who has a couple of hilarious bits as a relentlessly cheerio Girl Scout troop representative). Deprived of his trademark slapstick, Lewis' discomfort in having to mix the straight and the (only slightly) silly can't help but show. As a longtime admirer, I have always felt that Jerry's best work surfaces when he goes into all-out comic control freak mode on both sides of the lens (The Nutty Professor, The Bellboy, The Ladies' Man) or when paired with creative types that understand his humor (Frank Tashlin being the best example in Hollywood or Bust and one of my favorites, The Disorderly Orderly). For sublime Lewis, watch for Columbia TriStar to release The Big Mouth, a fairly big hit for the studio in 1967; it's by far the best and funniest of the four movies they own from Jerry's back catalog.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-
Image Transfer Review: Slicker than Jerry's hair, this is one of Columbia's finest transfers for a movie dating back from this era. Produced at the height of London's swinging '60s, the film is awash in colorful set designs and lush on-location photography that come across smashingly. Aside from brief utilizations of stock footage and an awkward scene transition in Chapter 20, one will be hard pressed to find any sort of flaws. Now if the same sort of attention would have been lavished upon the script....
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: On a par with its stellar visuals is the disc's razor sharp Dolby 2.0 monophonic track. Vibrant and punchy with good low end and more than adequate highs.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Mouse That Roared, The Outlaws Is Coming
Extras Review: Aside from trailers for two other '60s-era comedies recently unearthed from Columbia's vaults for DVD release, there's nothing else.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsAlthough this nicely preserved film does have its moments, only Lewis fans and completists will want to cross this digitally enhanced Bridge. Hopefully, far superior entries from the legendary funnyman's vast filmography will surface on the format with equally eye-popping transfers.
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