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Saturday, January 21, 2017

BOY, DID I GET A WRONG NUMBER! -- DVD Review by Porfle



I remember watching BOY, DID I GET A WRONG NUMBER! (1966) on TV two or three times as a kid.  I thought it was mildly amusing then, but it never really occurred to me how awful it was until it showed up years later as one of "The Fifty Worst Films of All Time" in that book by Harry Medved and Randy Dreyfuss.  So I couldn't wait to see what my reaction to a fresh re-viewing (via Olive Films' new Blu-ray and DVD release) would be after all these years.

Well, having developed a fierce affection for bad movies in the interim (it was always there but seemed to grow ever more keen over time) I now find this almost willfully mediocre and downright aggressively unfunny Bob Hope comedy to be a giddy joy from start to finish. 

This is a prime example of what I refer to as the "old fogey comedy", one of those colorful but dreary little backlot romps in which aging comics like Bob react with supposedly humorous chagrin to the changing mores of the 60s.  It usually involves the generation gap, as in the previous year's I'LL TAKE SWEDEN in which Bob co-starred with those crazy kids Tuesday Weld and Frankie Avalon.
 

But here, his comfortably conservative lifestyle is given a good shaking up by nothing less than the big S-E-X, in the form of a scantily-clad, perpetually way-hot Elke Sommer.  (Bob has a couple of teenaged kids in this but they don't figure that prominently.)  Since a more relaxed attitude toward sex was creeping into 60s cinema at the time, it was up to guys like Bob to step up and give their somewhat calcified take on it while keeping things family-friendly. 

Elke plays sexy starlet Didi, whose every film is highlighted by a bubble bath scene.  Her manager/director/boyfriend (Cesare Danova as "Pepe Pepponi") eggs her on when she begins to balk at such constant exploitation. (She wants to be a serious actress.) 

One day she escapes from the set in nothing but bubbles and disappears.  A few comic complications later and she's hiding out in real estate agent Bob's hideaway cottage by a secluded lake while a nationwide woman-hunt ensues.  (Bob's name in the film is "Tom Meade" but I think I'll just keep calling him "Bob" if that's okay.) 



Kindhearted Bob's attempts to help her hide from the world (while resisting overt carnal temptation) are thrown into disarray when his wife Martha ("Make Room For Daddy"'s Marjorie Lord) shows up at the cottage for a weekend love tryst with Bob, followed by Pepe and his strong-arm goons.  Meanwhile, Bob's sassy maid Lily, played by Phyllis Diller in full fright-wig mode, does her best to provide comedy relief to the comedy. 

The whole delightfully jumbled mess is like a deluxe episode of a bad 60s sitcom, with Bob and Phyllis lugging a drugged Didi from room to room so the increasingly perplexed Mrs. Meade won't stumble over her. 

Horny Boy Scouts peer through the windows, their hormones doing backflips at the sight of the elusive Didi in one of Bob's shirts. (Elke, needless to say, is well worth peering at.)  Martha, of course, eventually discovers Didi and goes into a fit of jealousy just about the time Pepe and the police show up thinking Bob has murdered poor Didi. 


Through it all, Bob just keeps firing off the really bad one-liners with the inimitable rubber-faced Phyllis giving him stiff competition.  (She has the advantage of being able to punctuate each of her cringeworthy gags with that trademark cackle of hers.) By now, Bob's zest for filmmaking had apparently started to wane as his performance, amazingly, seems hardly less perfunctory than the ones he gave during his many network TV specials. 

Marjorie Lord, bless her heart, not only has to act sexually aroused by Bob Hope but is cursed with one of the most god-awful "big hair" hairstyles ever to burst forth like Godzilla from a studio makeup department, while the whole film gives off a weary air of "what's with these crazy 60s anyway?" cluelessness. 

To top it off, the story ends with nothing less than a full-scale bad car chase, which means lots of stunt people driving around in fast motion while Bob, Phyllis, and the rest mug it up in front of rear-projection screens. (Phyllis Diller hunched over a dirt bike is a sight not soon forgotten.) 


Amazingly, the director, George Marshall, had a body of work that boasted such films as DESTRY RIDES AGAIN and HOW THE WEST WAS WON. Somehow he would later end up helming such relatively lesser fare as Elke's THE WICKED DREAMS OF PAULA SCHULTZ (Tarantino fans will recognize the reference to it in KILL BILL VOL. 2) and Jerry Lewis' less-than-stellar HOOK, LINE, AND SINKER, both of which make fitting companions for this resolutely unremarkable yet perversely watchable effort.

The DVD from Olive Films is in 1.85:1 widescreen with mono sound and optional English subtitles.  No extras.

To recap my two most important points: BOY, DID I GET A WRONG NUMBER is (1) a pretty bad movie, and (2) a delightfully fun experience.  Junk film junkies will understand.  As "old fogey" comedies go, it's one of the worst, which means it's one of the best.  And if that's too confusing, just sit back, ignore everything else, and peer at Elke for an hour and a half. 



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