28 February 2012 | dougdoepke
An Unexpected Sleeper
By the title, I was expecting a slice of romantic nonsense from Hollywood's younger crowd. Instead, the movie's a sharply written, cleverly mounted satire of the early days of television. In short, the film turned out to be an unexpected sleeper. Now ordinarily, Webb's snooty epicene characters don't appeal to me. Here, however, he plays it fairly straight as a college professor with a past he's trying to live down. The trouble is his ridiculous old silent films keep turning up on program-starved TV, much to the haughty prof's embarrassment.
Credit the quality to writer-director Binyon who sometimes showed flashes of brilliance in what appears an otherwise checkered career. And here I thought Frank Tashlin was the first moviemaker to mine TV's rich lode of absurdity. I love it when the professor turns channels randomly in the courtroom, and each channel is programming something ridiculous, including his old movies. It's hilarious. It's also hard to know how much things have changed since then, especially with the commercials.
The rest of the storyline is entertaining but nothing special. I enjoyed seeing a very young Ann Francis who makes a surprisingly good nubile academic. Too bad, however, there's not more of the delicious Elsa Lanchester. Her amorous moves on Webb amount to one of ditzy pairings of the decade. Then there's that clever tie-in at the end, helping make this 90-minutes of obscure, unexpected delight. Too bad the movie wasn't served by a more appropriate title.