17 November 2005 | goblinhairedguy
Jaw-dropping, good-natured pre-code antics
You really have to see this one to believe it! Not many movies flaunt their pre-code liberty so blatantly and lightheartedly (not unlike the Busby Berkeley extravaganza "Gold Diggers of 1933"). At the same time, it's very successful in its own right as a fast-paced comedy satirizing health-product hucksters and wealthy debauchees.
Inspired by the L.A. Olympics, a trio of con artists lure some prize-winning athletes into endorsing their newly-acquired fitness magazine. They stage an international publicity stunt to find the healthiest young bodies in the English-speaking world. While the athletes are out scouting for specimens, the three rogues turn the magazine into a lurid cheesecake rag (their lascivious board of censors is a hoot). This spins off into a health farm, which they try to turn into a high-priced knocking shop for Hollywood swells out to exploit eager young talent.
As the con artists, Robert Armstrong and James Gleason have plenty of fancy, word-mangling patter. And Gertrude Michael holds her own, needling them mercilessly, as well as slinkily seducing all-American hero Buster Crabbe. Crabbe practically plays himself, while an unrecognizable bleached-blonde Ida Lupino is his pert female British counterpart.
Not only are the dialog and situations pretty risqué, but there are plenty of suggestive visuals. Michaels enthusiastically ogles Crabbe's crotch through binoculars; there's a shower scene with bare-assed young men flitting about, and a production number which has the busty and muscled contest winners bouncing around in tight outfits, simulating Olympic events (male and female flesh are flaunted equally in this film). Berkeley favourite Toby Wing has a plumb role as Lupino's fun-loving underage cousin, who almost suffers a fate worse than death at the climactic wild party (not that the filmmakers seem to be too worried about it!). Lupino has to save her by taking her place in a grinding table-dance. Skinny Gleason, in jogging shorts, provides a very low-comedy fade-out gag.
Modern viewers will guffaw at the naive concept that health-conscious athletes would rather stop an orgy than join in. And like most 1930s Paramount films, the set direction is marvellous (just check out Armstrong's dowdy office!).
Even if you can only find a jittery video transfer, it's well worth checking this one out. More Paramount Olympic satire can be found in "Million Dollar Legs" (1932 version), and the magazine-exploitation angle was revived for the Don Knotts extravaganza "The Love God?".