Jul 6, 2015
On DVD: Robert Morse in Quick! Before it Melts (1964) and Sandra Dee in Doctor, You've Got to Be Kidding! (1966)
While I'm normally wary of any film that has an explanation point in its title, I found the sixties comedies Doctor, You've Got to Be Kidding! (1966) and Quick! Before it Melts (1964) to be a lot of fun. Both are newly released on DVD from Warner Archive.
Doctor, You've Got to Be Kidding is both very much of its time and slightly ahead of the curve. It draws its laughs out of the horrors of attempted date rape, sexual objectification and an overbearing stage mother, but it also features a heroine who isn't shamed for becoming pregnant out of wedlock and who is celebrated for her independent nature.
Sandra Dee stars as young secretary Heather Halloran, who finds she's got a baby on board after a night of passion with her boss (an unpleasantly stiff George Hamilton). They are in love, and he has already proposed, but she has turned him down because of his stuffy ideas about keeping a wife in the home. Heather has other options though, her vocal coach, a friendly shoe salesman and a randy next door neighbor are all eager to take her to the altar (Dick Kallman, Dwayne Hickman and Bill Bixby respectively).
To further complicate matters, Heather's mother (Celeste Holm) has been on a lifelong quest to force her marginally talented daughter into a career as a singer. Heather fights this all the way through college, and then suddenly, oddly becomes interested in pursuing the stage, even though she is gainfully employed and apparently happy in her job-- expect for that whole sexual tension with the boss thing.
Though it is full of the sort of farcical humor and visual quirks (SO many comical freeze frames) that could sink a 1960s comedy, Doctor floats along giddily with good-natured goofiness. The cast members appear to be having fun, digging into the absurdity of their roles and playing slightly, and entertainingly over-the-top. Bixby is especially amusing; he seems to delight in the sexual amorality of his essentially good-hearted character. He demonstrates solid comic chops here.
As good as the supporting cast is, it is Sandra Dee who makes all the insanity work. I've always found her to be a remarkable star. She's got all the gloss of an adorably glamorous sixties ingénue, but veers from that role just enough to show a bit of grit and naughty glee. The perpetually perky Dee is perfectly suited to frothy flicks, but is never insubstantial herself. There are moments when a giggle slides into a warmer, more knowing laugh, or the look in her eyes hints at something darker within.
Dee is given a great character to work with too. She is seen to be in a predicament when she becomes pregnant, but is never judged for her sexual encounter. Even when she cuts loose in an effort to forget Hamilton, her actions are seen as amusing, rather than problematic. She smokes, drinks and parties, but she is never degraded.
It's an interesting comedy that tangles lightly with issues from a time of dramatic social change.
Quick! Before it Melts has a similar attitude about women and sex. The film approves of the former being barefoot and pregnant and the latter happening after marriage, but acknowledges that it can be exciting to explore other possibilities.
It stars Robert Morse and George Maharis as a journalist and photographer team who are sent to Antarctica to dig up stories. Morse is engaged, but susceptible to beauties like Tiara (Anjanette Comer) a mixed-race beauty with Maori blood he meets on a stopover in New Zealand. Maharis is a ladies' man, adored by every woman he meets and drunk on their charms himself.
Though the comedy can drag a bit in the early scenes, it's an amusing novelty, not above using the cutesy appeal of penguins, but also with a bit of a racy feel. The script keeps you on your toes, starting to lead you down a certain path and then making amusing diversions.
When Morse's boss, who is also father to his fiancée calls, he asks what he is doing, and the younger man bluntly answers, "I'm trying to seduce your daughter," to which the unfazed bossman replies that he hopes he has better luck than he did with his wife. There's also a charming love scene where Morse sighs to Comer, "You're so beautiful" and she groans, "I know, it's a bore," before she pulls him into a passionate kiss.
An unusual flick, with lots of second tier stars doing first rate work.
Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copies of the films for review. These are Manufacture on Demand (MOD) DVDs. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.