TV repairman Jerry Lewis, hungering for the excitement of detective novels, latches onto dour shamus Jesse White -- first case: finding the missing heir of a millionaire inventor. Only thing is, all evidence points to himself, much to the chagrin of oily family attorney Zachary Scott, who wants the money to himself by marrying the magnate's clueless sister (Mae Questel). Shorn of the garish color and the romance that felt-tipped much of the grim slapstick of his '50s opuses (love interest Joan O'Brien labors hard to convince that her interest in freaky Lewis is not solely connected to his inheritance), this Frank Tashlin comedy is among his harshest: the splenetic idiocy, greed and sadism propelling the characters through their short-circuits match the lab insects of early Chabrol at his most jaundiced. Incidentally, it is also one of his funniest, integrating Lewis' facial detonations (by then, in between The Errand Boy and The Nutty Professor, very much his own auteur) with what could only be called Tashlin grace notes -- where in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? the director briefly defaced Tony Randall with a TV monitor, here he crams his leading man face-first into the tubes and transistors of another set. Elsewhere, water cooler boils as a buxom blonde grinds against Lewis, and the beard of an oil portrait gets shaved off. (Doughy vaudevillian Questel, the voice of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl, provides another link to the filmmaker's cartoonist roots.) Still, Tashlin reserves his spikiest digs to an ominous mechanization that lacks even the human potential for stupidity -- those one-eyed, evilly antennaed motorized lawnmowers would not be out of place in a Philip K Dick story. Written by John Fenton Murray. With Jack Weston. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce