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  Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River Jerry goes wild in Swinging London
Year: 1968
Director: Jerry Paris
Stars: Jerry Lewis, Terry-Thomas, Jacqueline Pearce, Bernard Cribbins, Patricia Routledge, Nicholas Parsons, Michael Bates, Colin Gordon, John Bluthal
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: George Lester (Jerry Lewis) has been a huckster since childhood. Always looking out for a get-rich-quick scheme. Now resident in Swinging London, George’s hopeless, money-making ploys finally drive his wife Pamela Lester (Jacqueline Pearce) to seek a divorce, having shacked up with smarmy businessman Dudley Heath (game show stalwart Nicholas Parsons). Desperate to raise £25,000 to settle his debts and win his wife back, George reaches out to an oily acquaintance, H. William Homer (Terry-Thomas). Together they concoct a plan to steal blueprints for a high-tech oil drill Dudley has pilfered from a naïve inventor, smuggle them into Portugal inside the hollow tooth of hapless air steward Fred Davies (Bernard Cribbins), and sell them to some Arabian oil sheiks. Needless to say, things go awry.

Aside from the novelty of seeing Jerry Lewis whiz around Swinging London in a red E-type Jag and grooving it up in his far-out nightclub, there is precious little laughter to be had here. Adapting his own novel, screenwriter Max Wilk dwells tediously on George’s endless attempts to woo back Pamela, a plot thread that stubbornly fails to engage since we have zero emotional involvement in this rather self-satisfied couple. Then newly-divorced himself, Jerry continually vents his frustration to camera (“What do women want from men?”) and summarises his money-making ethos as: “the world is divided in two: the takers and the taken.” Meanwhile, the overly complicated scheme lurches all over the place, with George bedridden with the mumps serving as a lame plot point.

Director Jerry Paris, who went on to helm around a billion episodes of Happy Days and a couple of Police Academy sequels, tries to paper over the cracks with surface glamour. But scenes where dolly-birds parade in far-out fashions or Jerry jaunts around trendy tourist spots are merely filler. By the late sixties, Jerry shed the squeaky man-child persona of his glory years at Paramount and embraced a suave, Las Vegas playboy image, not too different from that of his old sparring partner Dean Martin. Here, Bernard Cribbins does the extended pratfalls and clowning we’d expect from Jerry.

Although future Blake’s Seven star Jacqueline Pearce is miscast, Lewis sparks surprisingly well off such British comedy stalwarts as Patricia Routledge (as a pushy Girls’ Scout Leader), Parsons, and the national treasure that is Mr. Cribbins. That said, although the inimitable Terry-Thomas could play this sort of cad in his sleep, the film gives him far too little to do.

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Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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