23 November 2019 | k_t_t2001
Frothy, fantastical fun
Giacinto Floria (the always excellent Ugo Tognazzi) is a polite, reserved, upright and uptight sort of fella, perfectly suited to his vocation as a teacher at a reform school for wayward young ladies. Giacinto is engaged to the beautiful Mafalda de Matteis (Abbe Lane) - a fellow teacher at the school - is fulfilled in his work, perfectly content in his serene existence, and completely unaware that fate is about to upend his ordered life into a blender set to puree.
In his secret laboratory - conveniently located just across the street from the reform school - the decidedly deranged and desperately horny scientist, Professor Fabius (Raimondo Vianello), has just had his eureka moment. Unable to attract beautiful women because of his ugliness - his appearance vaguely reminiscent of Fredric March's stage one Mr. Hyde makeup in the 1931 Rouben Mamoulian classic - Fabius has come up with a typically mad genius type solution to his problem: a machine that can, for a couple of hours anyway, transfer the consciousness - the "humus vitalis" - of one person, into the body of another. Of course, Fabius has already picked out the perfect subject for him to brain/body swap with, a man surrounded by beautiful - and slightly debauched - young women: the unsuspecting Giacinto Floria.
When Giacinto awakens the next morning to discover that his formerly idyllic life has inexplicably been turned upside down, the confused and desperate teacher seeks the aid of unconventional private detective, master of disguise and man of a thousand faces, Myster (for "mysterious") Arguzio (Carlo Croccolo). The eccentric Arguzio takes the case, blithely unaware that it will be a far more confounding and bizarre enterprise than he could have ever suspected. Also along for the ride is the gorgeous Hélène Chanel, as a new student at the school, who has fallen for the mild-mannered Giacinto, and is determined to stand by him, no matter what.
If this film had been made in Hollywood, circa 1955, rather than Rome, 1960, it could very easily have been a Martin and Lewis vehicle. Dean doing double duty as both the handsome and hapless Giacinto and his brain-swapped, womanizing other self, and Jerry as the eccentric Arguzio, with Dorothy Malone and Sheree North providing the distaff support and - in a perfect world - Boris Karloff in a guest starring turn as Fabius.
The film, as it stands, definitely has the same sort of lightweight, lighthearted charm as a prime Martin and Lewis outing, breezing along in predictable and humorous ways. Tognazzi handles his dual role as both innocent and cad with his customary skill and humor, and Carlo Croccolo manages to avoid becoming annoying in a role that is an engraved invitation for hammy excess. The rest of the cast know what sort of film they're in, and tailor their performances appropriately, with Anna Campori, as Giacinto's prospective mother-in-law, presenting a delightful, if wholly unintentional, mash-up of Mabel Albertson and Alice Ghostley.
Some good news is that the film has just received a decent picture quality, anamorphic, 1.66:1, DVD release, making it more available to interested parties. The bad news is that this print is inexplicably incomplete - with random seconds snipped from a number of scenes for no discernable reason. Altogether, the missing footage probably adds up to less than a minute, and, fortunately, with the exception of one particularly unfathomable mid-scene excision, the missing bits tend to be at the beginning and end of scenes, so their omission isn't especially obvious and doesn't overly detract from an enjoyable viewing of the film.
If you're in the mood for some frothy, fantastical fun, with a little sex-appeal and a healthy dollop of silliness, IL MIO AMICO JEKYLL is an entertaining film, definitely worth a look.