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  Maltese Bippy, The Sock It To Them
Year: 1969
Director: Norman Panama
Stars: Dan Rowan, Dick Martin, Carol Lynley, Julie Newmar, Mildred Natwick, Fritz Weaver, Robert Reed, David Hurst, Dana Elcar, Leon Askin, Alan Oppenheimer, Edra Gale, Arthur Batanides, Pamela Rodgers, Jennifer Bishop, Maudie Prickett, Garry Walberg
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: In Flushing, New York, there has been a gruesome murder committed in a cemetery, and one woman reported being alarmed by a man who made howling noises. Well, that's about it, hope you enjoyed the movie - wait, here are Dan Rowan and Dick Martin to introduce the rest of it, Dick was wrong, that wasn't all there is. First they have to get past the credits, and the two leading men quip their way through it, with Dick hoping this is the kind of story where they walk off into the sunset at the end, but we haven't even established what the funnymen are supposed to be doing in this. Turns out their playing two opportunists who when we catch up with them are shooting a nudie movie...

Don't worry, this was rated G at the time so there was no chance of seeing Rowan and Martin in saucy situations, though there were a few of their slightly off-colour gags, which would go over the heads of their younger fans. They certainly did have fans in the sixties and into the early seventies, but it was not down to their appearance in this effort, it was because they were stars of the hit comedy sketch show Laugh-In, which launched a few careers, most notably that of Goldie Hawn. It didn't launch Rowan and Martin's careers, however, as they had already been working steadily for years, mostly as nightclub comedians but they also had a movie under their belts, Once Upon a Horse from around ten years before this.

For most of their fans, this was to all intents and purposes their debut - that previous big screen work didn't exactly set the box office alight, but then again, neither did The Maltese Bippy. In fact, as tends to be the case with television stars, potential cinema audiences don't feel like paying to see them when they could stay at home and watch them for free, and as a result the duo scurried back to the small screen when this flopped completely, never making another film together, indeed for Rowan he never made another film full stop. Martin went on to a successful run of television direction, often comedy, once his star had faded, but Rowan made only a few appearances as a guest star before his untimely death.

Their relationship, Rowan the straight man smoothie and Martin the pixelated funny one, was preserved in this vehicle, though their grounding in a very basic comic partnership - even on TV, there was something very traditional about their professional personalities - meant that the plot could have been borrowed from any number of vintage nineteen-forties old dark house mystery runarounds. In fact, it was only rarely here that they got to live up to their endlessly irreverent style, most notably in the ending which they decide they dislike so go through variations until they settle on something, if not satisfying, then at least adequate since there are no more characters left to concoct any more story around.

Bits like that would have been better capitalised on for the rest of the movie, but in the main it's the sort of thing director Norman Panama would have penned for Bob Hope twenty years before, only Hope would have corralled his team of gag men to punch up the script with better jokes. For the first half we're bogged down in a bunch of clues to try and work out what is happening and whether Martin is a werewolf or not, which does bring about a very strange nightmare sequence as he is covered in hairy makeup and chased down the streets, whereupon Rowan shows up as a vampire who stakes him (huh?). The supporting cast was welcome at any rate, with Carol Lynley as Martin's love interest, Julie Newmar with an accent as a possible vamp and Fritz Weaver as her brother who may be a vampire himself, though disappointingly everything potentially supernatural is dispensed with in the second half for a more conventional approach - until that "we really don't care because it really doesn't matter" ending. The Maltese Bippy was a relic, but only mildly diverting. Music by Nelson Riddle.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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