11 August 2013 | tmaj48
Strange misfire comedy appeals mainly to film buffs
While a lot of unjustly forgotten films have been recently released on Warner Archives DVD, this one might have been forgotten for a reason. It's not exactly a terrible film, it just doesn't seem to work. The film's premise, about a woman who sublets an apartment from a Marine during a housing shortage, only to find that he's also issued a standing invitation for the use of the apartment to several of his male friends, has the potential for a wacky screwball comedy. Certainly Jean Arthur was able to turn a similar story line into classic comedy in "The More the Merrier". As this movie was the product of the low-budget Monogram Studios, someone of Arthur's caliber wasn't available, but the role might have been a good showcase for a reliable comedienne such as Lucille Ball or Betty Hutton. Instead, the role went to Simone Simon, who can't really milk the role for all its comic potential. It's hard enough sometimes just to understand her would-be wisecracks through her thick French accent.
The lead roles are played by James Ellison and William Terry, a pleasant-looking actor who deserved better roles than he generally got over the course of his career. The actors try their best to squeeze some laughs out of the material, but much of the comedy seems uninspired. The running gag of having a gremlin (a tiny little troll) appear throughout the story to sabotage everyone's plans may have seemed like a cute idea at the time, but it's just bizarre and unfunny.
Classic film buffs may appreciate seeing this mainly for the chance to catch some familiar faces, such as character actors Chester Clute and Minna Gombell as a pair of bickering landlords, and child actor Billy Laughlin in his only movie role (he was otherwise known as "Froggy" in the later Our Gang episodes). There's a brief, sad cameo by Rondo Hatton, an actor who capitalized on his severe facial deformities by appearing in B horror movies during the '40s. The gremlin is played by Jerry Maren, best known as one of the Munchkins from "The Wizard of Oz", although he's unrecognizable in the gremlin costume. The gremlin's voice is unmistakably that of Mel Blanc. And the film features an early appearance by Robert Mitchum, whose charisma shines through in a small role here. His character is described by one of the others as someone who "looks like a movie star," which in Mitchum's case is prophetic, as he would become a star just a few years after this movie was made.
Despite its mediocrity, this film has a truly surprising twist at the end. So, with a 78-minute running time, it just might be worth slogging your way through it to get to the finish. Just don't expect too much along the way.