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Paramount Studios presents
The Delicate Delinquent (1957)

Mike Damon: I don't want anything, Sidney. I just want to help you.
Sidney Pythias: I don't need any help. I'm doing fine.

- Darren McGavin, Jerry Lewis

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: October 13, 2004

Stars: Jerry Lewis
Other Stars: Darren McGavin, Martha Hyer, Robert Ivers, Horace McMahon, Mary Webster, Frank Gorshin
Director: Don McGuire

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:40m:53s
Release Date: October 12, 2004
UPC: 097360561340
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ C-BB D-

DVD Review

Released in 1957, the Don McQuire-directed The Delicate Delinquent is probably most notable as the first film Jerry Lewis made after his highly publicized split with Dean Martin, and Darren McGavin had to step in to take on the straight man role. McGavin plays good cop Mike Damon who works the gang-infested neighborhoods of New York (think West Side Story without the dancing), who under a 30-day ultimatum from his crusty commander, is given the opportunity to try and find one troubled juvie he can save. No surprise that it ends up being Sidney Pythias (Lewis), a schlubby "apprentice janitor" who gets arrested one night after finding himself in the middle of a rumble.

Unlike later solo Lewis films where he would really crank up the whole manic "hey laaaady" voice and cartoony mannerisms, his character in The Delicate Delinquent incessantly waffles between a ridiculously moronic simpleton and something approaching an actual sympathetic loner. That there are really two Sidneys here makes this an uneven ride comedically, and it is tough to laugh at his nervous antics and slapstick (like a weird sequence involving a trundle bed) when we've already been given a one-note backstory that seems to demand we feel sorry for him.

The second half of The Delicate Delinquent has Sidney enrolling in the police academy in order to better himself, so there are the obligatory pratfall shenanigans of basic training, some of which (like the goofy Japanese wrestler bit) are mildly amusing. But then the funny disappears, and this all leads to a semi-serious climactic police/gang street fight that requires a supposedly hardened gang member to step forward and go all soft just to clear Sidney's tarnished name.

To fill out the shaky story between Lewis and his flip-floppy character, McQuire wisely adds the radiant Martha Hyer as city council member Miss Henshaw, who has been sent to monitor Damon's progress with his new charge, and true to form Henshaw and Damon bicker and hiss, but we can tell there's love a-brewing; likewise with Sidney and the cute girl (Mary Webster) in his apartment building, who literally throws herself at him, despite his overall cluelessness.

This is the sloppy equivalent of the combo platter for Jerry Lewis, a film that tries to break away from the Martin/Lewis mold, while still allowing him to play a slightly more human character (yet one who still pratfalls and stammers) and of course give him the chance to sing a song, during the horribly out of place introspective tune that occurs when Sidney wanders the backlot alley set after being harshly dissed by Martha Hyer.

And there is no bigger mood killer than Jerry Lewis crooning.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The Delicate Delinquent is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, and the print itself is remarkably clean and well-preserved for its age. Some shimmer and ringing in spots, but no issues with the contrast levels at all.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is provided in Dolby Digital mono, and it is a strong presentation, with no hiss or crackle. Dialogue is clear, with none of the shrillness often found on late 1950s mono mixes.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: No extras other than a theatrical trailer. The disc is cut into 15 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or Spanish.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

This hodgepodge entry marks the first post-Dean Martin Jerry Lewis film, and maybe it's because he was trying to find his solo sea legs, but The Delicate Delinquent crosses lines between traditional slapstick and hackneyed drama too often to actually settle on one genre.


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