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  Who's Minding the Mint? Money Money MoneyBuy this film here.
Year: 1967
Director: Howard Morris
Stars: Jim Hutton, Dorothy Provine, Milton Berle, Joey Bishop, Bob Denver, Walter Brennan, Victor Buono, Jack Gilford, Jamie Farr, David J. Stewart, Corinne Cole, Jackie Joseph, Bryan O’Byrne, Robert Ball, Nora Denney, Luther James, Mickey Deems
Genre: Comedy
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Harry Lucas (Jim Hutton) has it all worked out, or at least he thinks he does. He works in the Washington mint, supervising various areas of banknote manufacture, and it's a good job he makes go a long way when he chooses to save his money on spending it on anything permanent by taking advantage of a host of trial offers, so his apartment is furnished with temporary trappings and he saves on running a car by taking test drives. This frugality even extends to his love life, where he is happy to spend a little time with a willing neighbour most evenings, but doesn't feel the need to commit, certainly not to co-worker Verna Baxter (Dorothy Provine) who hankers after a relationship. But the best laid plans and all that...

At the time Who's Minding the Mint? was regarded as a sort of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World lite thanks to its money-obsessed characters and a collection of fairly famous names who may have been more identified with television than the movies filling out the ranks of the cast. Like that comedy blockbuster, this went on to a cult following, though not one as substantial and wide-ranging, so it was more a case of a charming discovery for those who happened across it on the TV schedules than one that was the centrepiece of any film festivals or important seasons on the box. But modest as that was, sometimes you just wanted something with a few good laughs and a benevolent demeanour.

You assuredly got that here, as Hutton headed a cast of seasoned pros whose characters let their greed get the better of them after he makes a major boo-boo and accidentally destroys fifty thousand dollars down his waste disposal unit. Not of his own money, but cash that somehow got into his apartment (too complicated to explain), and now he has to make it up - alas, his boss, Samson Link (David J. Stewart), is not the most tolerant of men, and indeed has noted Harry's apparently profligate lifestyle and is keen to prove his employee has been fiddling the books to help himself to the product, all to fund his ways. This was where a lot of sixties comedies found their inspiration: heck, let's have a heist movie!

The heist in this case was to break into the mint, then start up the presses to print off a replacement amount, then return it the next day with nobody any the wiser. But it wouldn't be fun without complications, and that's what you got when the team of people Harry gathers grows to a near-unmanageable eight, who need to do such things as run the presses (Walter Brennan), open the safe to get the plates (Jack Gilford, playing hard of hearing), or even stand lookout (Jamie Farr as an Italian), not to mention invite himself along for the ride because he is owed money in the first place (Milton Berle). Then there's Verna, who is recruited by Harry in a move the plot deems necessary to set the romantic subplot in motion, though she winds up as the conscience of the piece when she questions the cool million everyone is helping themselves to.

Quite rightly, she points out that given the exercise was meant to help Harry with his problem then the fifty thousand should be all that's necessary to print, and the financial reward his gang have deigned to be included as payment for services they should have been contributing to out of the kindness of their hearts is purely self-serving. This tension between what are essentially a bunch of goofs and their rather less noble motivations was not played too heavily, but it was there, a sly comment on the American Dream that so many of these comedies were happy to take for granted; surely their sins would find them out, or in this case be thwarted before they got in too deep in a sweet but ingeniously plotted turn of events. Comedy expert Howard Morris got the best out of his players in one of his few feature films as director, hinting at the increasing sauciness to come in American comedy as we're under no illusions how Bob Denver is keeping nosy Jackie Joseph occupied all night, and Provine's poitrine is the basis of one memorable gag, but mostly this got by with a generous spirit measured by a wry mood. Music by Lalo Schifrin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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