Jennifer Nelson (Doris Day) has two jobs: when she's not acting as tour guide around a space research centre she's posing as a mermaid for the glass bottom boat tours of her father (Arthur Godfrey) where she will swim underneath it appropriately dressed in the costume on cue. However, today she is about to carry out this task when the lower half of that costume is snagged by a fishing line, and its owner, Bruce Templeton (Rod Taylor), reels Jennifer in. Or rather part of her clothing, leaving her in a state of undress and indignantly demanding the return of her fins...
Actually, that's about your lot for the glass bottom boat of the title, for this isn't some holiday romance, it's more of a comedy adventure, steering dangerously near to being Doris Day's sole science fiction outing. It didn't quite get to that stage, but with its anti-gravity machine and various gadgets it was this close to shooting her up into space, or that's how it came across until well and truly sidetracked by Cold War espionage. Taylor was actually playing Jennifer's boss back at the science project, a genius who has invented a method of controlling gravity all the better for managing a trip to the planet Venus.
After not one but two meetings cute (the second where Jennifer gets her shoe caught in a mechanical dust-catching grate and Bruce helps her out after a fashion), he decides he quite likes this woman and contrives to ask her out and about the project with a view to taking things further - romantically, that was. Yet with director Frank Tashlin at the helm, a craftsman no stranger to cartoonish gags, you could tell the path of true love was not going to run smooth as all manner of obstacles get in the way, most obviously the belief of Bruce's security team that his new girlfriend is a spy for the Soviets. There followed some of the most ridiculous situations Doris ever got into during her career.
Bearing in mind her producer husband Martin Melcher was placing the star in productions which were increasingly frantic in a way of keeping up with the fast-changing times, she was lucky to get involved professionally with Tashlin, who may have been reaching the end of his screen career as well, but remained as full of wacky ideas as he had been as an animator way back at its beginning. Therefore Doris's role here was not only to get into clinches with Rod, but to be an agent of chaos as broad, ludicrous slapstick ruled the day: the sequence where she tries to get a cake off the foot of Russian agent Dom DeLuise was notable for just how preposterous it got in the pursuit of generating laughter.
The strain was showing somewhat, and though they were all working very hard the cast did not prove quite as adept at the funny business as, say Tashlin's old cohort Jerry Lewis and his regulars might have been. Nevertheless, what a cast of sixties celebs it was, notably Paul Lynde as the security head who of course has to end up in drag so he can follow Jennifer into the ladies' and eavesdrop on her supposedly top secret phone calls, and Laugh-In headliner Dick Martin who offers stooge services to Taylor, not that Rod needed any help in getting a big cake planted in his face. With its typically gaudy colours this didn't look as if it could have come from any other era, and that determinedly silly humour which had not quite coarsened as it would in the following decade marked it out for fans. Doris even sang a few songs (including a burst of Que Sera, Sera), not that this was a musical though for some reason Frank DeVol's score kept returning to Mockingbird and Beethoven's Fifth as themes. All you needed to know was in the fact the dog was called Vladimir - why else?
American director whose films were heavily influenced by his years spent working in cartoons. In his 20s and 30s, Tashlin worked at both Disney and Warner Brothers in their animation studios, before moving into comedy scriptwriting in the late 1940s, on films like Bob Hope's The Paleface. Tashlin moved into directing popular live-action comedies soon after, with Hope in Son of Paleface, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in Artists and Models and Hollywood or Bust, and most notably Jayne Mansfield in The Girl Can't Help It and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? These films were full of inventive, sometimes surreal touches, and used many of the techniques Tashlin had learnt as an animator. Continued to work during the sixties, but without the success of the previous decade.