The Comedy of Terrors and The Nutty Professor :: His and Hers Drive-In Double Feature (1963)

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His and Hers Drive-In Double Feature :: 1963 :: The Comedy of Terrors and The Nutty Professor

It has been quite awhile since my husband and I worked together on our year-by-year feature, our “His and Hers Drive-In Double Feature”. The holiday season is a mad rush when you have kids, and in my line of work (advertising), the end of the year can get more than a little crazy, so we had put this project on hiatus. But, watch out readers and movie lovers, we are back. We last left off in 1962, where we watched, and reviewed “his” choice (Sergeants 3) and my (“her”) choice (Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation), so now we are on to 1963.

As a reminder to any new readers, we each select a movie to view together, most times one that the other has not seen, and after viewing the two films share our thoughts about each choice. My husband, Charles, likes to take a cue in style and structure of the infamous drive-in movie reviewer, Joe Bob Briggs, especially in his “3 B” rating system (“Breasts, Beasts and Blood”). I like to say that no, he is not a redneck misogynist, he just sarcastically plays at it here on Drive-In Double Feature. My English major side plays into my style, as does my reviews reading more as a reaction to the art form itself, as well as any societal messaging, both positive and negative, that may permeate the film, and impact my perspective. All that said, we try to have fun with it, and utilize the challenge we threw at ourselves as a reason to carve out time, in each of our busy lives, to spend together.

Our first film is a favorite of mine, that my Mother introduced to me at a young age. It stars a cast of stellar horror and thriller actors of the time in a “parody” type comedy of errors called The Comedy of Terrors (see what they did there with the title?). Vincent Price has always been a favorite actor of mine, so he was the draw to choose this film for a re-watch (for me) and an introduction (for Charles). There were things I had forgotten about the story of a funeral home on a financial decline who tries to “kill” up some new business, and things I had not noticed as a young child watching. What I did notice, and remember, was the repeated line, delivered brilliantly by Basil Rathbone, “What place is this?”, a line that my Mother and I still jokingly say to each other now and again.

Our second film, is yet another Jerry Lewis film chosen by Charles. Funny, as he is a Dean Martin, and not Lewis fan, yet this will be our second trip into Jerry-land. In this we see one of the first comedic takes on the Dr. Jekyll and Hyde storyline. For those who are fans of Martin and Lewis, it is interesting to watch Jerry mimic Dean when his opposite persona comes into play. For me, this is a test to see if my distaste for Jerry Lewis will hinder my enjoyment of the film, and whether or not the “switched personalities”/lesson of being yourself trope will come off as too contrived. I am keeping my mind open and my expectations low to give it a fighting chance.

So, take a seat, grab a cup of coffee, a warm milk (sans poison), or a Dean Martin style cocktail and cigarette and enjoy the return of the His and Hers Drive-In double feature. Please feel free to share your opinions on the movies, and share with us what movie you would have chosen for 1963. We also will consider requests for the years to come, just let us know – we love feedback.

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The Comedy of Terrors (1963)


Brief history:

The Comedy of Terrors  is an American International Pictures comedy horror film directed by Jacques Tourneur and starring Vincent Price,Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, and (in a cameo) Joe E. Brown in his final film appearance. The film also features Orangey the cat, billed as “Rhubarb the Cat”. It is a blend of comedy and horror which features several cast members from Tales of Terror, made by American International Pictures the year before.


The film was a follow up to The Raven, meant to reunite Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff. The original intention was for Karloff to play the part of the ceaselessly spry old landlord, Mr. Black. But by the time production was set to begin, it was realized that it would have been difficult (if not impossible) for Karloff to perform the physical requirements of the role, due to persistent back and leg problems brought on by severe arthritis, which had worsened with age. So, Karloff traded roles with Basil Rathbone, and instead played Amaryllis’ elderly father, Mr. Hinchley.


There was a great deal of physicality demanded of Peter Lorre’s character, Mr. Gillie. It’s fairly obvious—while watching the film—that a professional stunt man was utilized for the frequently rendered tumbles and pratfalls. The stunt double, Harvey Parry, was outfitted with a full mask crafted in Lorre’s likeness, complete with his instantly recognizable pop-eyes.


Richard Matheson wanted to write a follow-up film for American International Pictures called Sweethearts and Horrors, which was intended to star Price as a ventriloquist, Karloff as a children’s TV host, Rathbone as a musical comedy star, Lorre as a magician and Tallulah Bankhead. However Comedy of Terrors was not a big hit so plans to make the follow-up were shelved.


A novelization of The Comedy of Terrors was written in 1964 by Elsie Lee, adapted from Richard Matheson’s screenplay. It was published by Lancer Books in paperback (making certain changes in the story’s ending).

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His take: 

First off, let me preface by saying, “not bad for a film directed by a French guy“. No hidden meanings, no trains in tunnels, no hot dogs in buns, the film is what it is, which is a nice departure for three actors better known for their horror background. Some of my favorite films involve actors going against their “type-casting“, Dean Martin in a Western, Jim Carrey in a good film, and Vincent Price showing his funny side.


I realize that Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and Peter Lorre had done The Raven the previous year, but let’s face it, when you think Edgar Allen Poe you don’t really think of rip-roaring laughs. Bias, Peter Lorre pretty much plays the same character that he has played his entire career; the “comedic” sidekick, very similar to the role he played in the film, Arsenic and Old Lace, also co-starring Boris Karloff.


I don’t want to throw spoilers at’cha if you haven’t seen this 50-year old film, but Vincent Price is hilarious as the drunken, money-grubbing, and considering some of his leers, less-than-faithful husband who concocts an ingenious plan to increase revenue in his married-into funeral home, yet does not include the forethought to find out if his intended victims are married to “gold-digger” wives who will not pay their bill.


My only complaint is that they should have used Boris Karloff more frequently. His role as the addled-minded Father-In-Law steals what few scenes they actually utilize him in.


And, keep an eye out for the indestructible “Sherlock Holmes” who Vincent Price’s character fails not once, not twice, but seven times to kill.



3 B rating (1 point given for Boobs, Beasts and Blood): 2 B’s for 4 boobs – No blood, no beasts, but Beverly Hills and Joyce Jameson’s breasts ain’t nutin’ to sneeze at in this film.

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Her Take: 

A Comedy of Terrors was one of the many late night shared movie memories I have of my Mother. She was the one who ignited my love for Vincent Price, and classic films, both of the horror and romantic comedy/drama varieties. I was quite young when I first watched this one, with my Mother, though it was one of those films that we have talked about many times over the years. Because of us bringing it up so often, and quoting Basil Rathbone’s famous repeated line, I honestly felt like I had seen it multiple times, and recently; neither were true – I realized that I have only ever seen it once, back when I was a child. This made the re-watch of this film even more enjoyable for me, as I only recalled moments, and one significant detail, but not all the twists and turns, nor the ending.


My first realization is that Vincent Price’s character, Waldo Trumbull, is an all-around awful person. He is a terrible husband who constantly belittles and verbally abuses his wife, played by Joyce Jameson. He is a horrible Son-In-Law to his Father-In-Law played by Boris Karloff; Waldo attempts to slip poison into his Father-In-Law’s warm milk, telling him it is his “medicine”, on a daily basis. Waldo is also a bad co-worker, who incessantly berates Peter Lorre’s character, Felix Gille, and forces him to assist in multiple murders by reminding him that he himself was once a convicted thief and that Felix should be grateful to have a job. Waldo is also a drunk and, oh yeah, a murderer. Waldo is an awful, awful person.


That said, Felix is not that great of a person either. He covets his boss’ wife, ogling her and following her around, dancing with her and wooing her, albeit in an awkward sort of way. He also goes along with his boss’ murderous plots without going to the police, or at least completely refusing to partake in the crimes. I would say that his character is short on confidence, yet he does show enough bravado and bravery to seduce his abusive boss’ wife out from under him.

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Joyce and her Father are the real innocents in this drama, though neither has all their wits about them as is shown in both their perceptions and feelings for Waldo. Also, I am not sure how or why Joyce thinks she could be a successful opera singer as her voice seems to scare Cleopatra the cat, kill flowers and break glasses and bottles. I suppose that Basil Rathbone’s John Black is an innocent, as well as seemingly impervious to death. I do wonder, though, if the kind of narcolepsy he suffers from is triggered by fear and/or heightened emotions? It does seem like anytime Waldo and Felix are near him a narcoleptic episode occurs. As far as not dying despite of being closed up in a coffin, shot, knocked out and a variety of other physical damages, is a complete mystery. It is funny though, and works as a “comedy of errors” plot device.


Another question in this film that I had was why did Waldo and Felix bring along Cleopatra the cat when they went to break into a home and murder the inhabitant? In what way would the cat be of help? It does set-up a great shot of Waldo holding the cat and stroking its fur in the proverbial “super villain” kind of way, but beyond that, it seemed implausible and questionable to bring Cleopatra along for the ride.


Also, after the first murder are shown, why do Felix and Waldo stay parked in the hearse just outside the house, which by the way is out in the middle of nowhere? They stay there waiting to hear any recognition of the man they have just killed being dead in the house, only to then go to the door and offer their services. Did this not strike the house servant and/or widow as oddly fortuitous? Or, was the widow so damn grateful her rich, much older husband was finally deceased that she did not care if there was foul play involved? In this case I’d have to cast my vote for the latter scenario, especially when we find out that she has skipped town, with every earthly belonging, before her late husband’s funeral, and without paying for said funeral arrangements.


Lesson here? Be careful who you kill to make money for your funeral home, I suppose.


All that said, I enjoyed this movie and laughed often. I do feel that Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone stole ever scene they were in, and I do wish that Boris had had more of screen time, though learning of his health issues I can understand why he didn’t. The ending was the best, especially with Boris Karloff’s character “helping” out his Son-In-Law by nursing him back to health with some of his Son-In-Law’s “medicine” (i.e. poison). I love the irony in the one thing finally killing Waldo was not from gunshots, sword stabs, or knockouts from fighting, but that it was his own poison the he carried around in his breast pocket.

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Her Rating: Out of 5 stars: I give this film 4 stars, because this movie still makes me laugh hilariously, and it is great fun to see these actors play funny and ridiculous, albeit deviously, with each other.


The Nutty Professor (1963)


Brief history:

The Nutty Professor is a 1963 Paramount Pictures science fiction comedy feature film produced, directed, co-written (with Bill Richmond) and starring Jerry Lewis. The score was composed by Walter Scharf. The film is a parody of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.


In 2004, The Nutty Professor was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant“.

The entire production was filmed from October 9-December 17, 1962, mostly on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ.

The basic characterisation of Professor Julius Kelp was a Lewis staple, having appeared earlier in 1958’s Rock-A-Bye Baby, and basically identical characters would appear in 1965’s The Family Jewels, and 1967’s The Big Mouth.


Buddy Love is often interpreted as a lampoon of Lewis’ former show business partner Dean Martin. Lewis, however, has consistently denied this, saying that the character of Love was based on every obnoxious self-important hateful hipster he ever knew, including in his 1982 autobiography, and in a special documentary produced for the DVD release of the film, entitled The Nutty Professor, Making The Formula.

On the DVD commentary Lewis speculates that he perhaps should have made Love more evil — since to his surprise more fan mail came for Love than the professor. Film critic Danny Peary has made the claim in his 1981 book Cult Movies that the character of Love is actually the real counterpart of Jerry Lewis. Lewis has stated that the two represented good and evil.


The character of Professor Frink from the animated television series The Simpsons loosely borrows much of his mannerisms and technique from Lewis’s delivery of the Julius Kelp character, as well as the transition to a “Buddy Love” version of Frink in several episodes. In one episode, the character of Frink’s father appears, and was voiced by guest star Lewis.


The Alaskan Polar Bear Heater is a cocktail featured in the film. Buddy Love instructs the bartender (Buddy Lester) on its preparation: two shots of vodka, a little rum, some bitters, a smidgen of vinegar, a shot of vermouth, a shot of gin, a little brandy, a lemon peel, orange peel, cherry, some more scotch. At one point during the instructions, the bartender quips “You going to drink this here, or are you going to take it home and rub it on your chest?”

Love instructs the bartender to “mix it nice” and pour it into a tall glass. The bartender asks if he can take a sip; after doing so, he freezes like a statue. While the drink started as fictional, it is now listed on some cocktail websites.

His take: 

Jerry Lewis is funny…when he’s working with Dean Martin. However, regardless of the French’s questionable praise of his genius, there are very few films after his break-up with Dean that I enjoy, this being one of them. Disregarding some of the questionable cinematography (why the hell did we need a gel-filter on Stella Stevens pondering of the Purple Pit?), this is a decent foray and a comedic re-telling of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, even to the point of using some of the same make-up effects during his initial change as the Spencer Tracy version of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde film.


While Jerry still has a tendency to drag out scenes in order to get the film length over 90 minutes, a lot of them play out well. The first part of the film drags out slow, with overuse of an identifying plot prop which is never fully realized (The John Philip Souza pocket watch). Once Professor Kelp is transformed into Buddy Love the film finally gets into the (for lack of a better word) swing of things, and its easy to see the fusing of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra in the Buddy Love character, even to the point of using a Frank/Sammy Davis, Jr. song ad nauseam (there is only so many times I can hear a bad cover of Old Black Magic, and Lewis does this three times in the film).

One of the three times.

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3 B rating (1 point given for Boobs, Beasts and Blood): 2 B’s – 1 for “the Beast” which can be seen as either “Buddy Love” or “Picasso” Hyde (when Jerry is changing colors which may be where Lady Gaga got her inspiration for the Applause video), and 1 for Breasts, for Stella Stevens, despite her “torpedo bra” is still impressive! No blood.


Her Take: 

Where do I begin? I would state that I do not like Jerry Lewis as an actor and comedian, but that would be rather repetitive now wouldn’t it? Despite this fact I went into the film with an open mind and with the hope that maybe this film might change my opinion of Mr. Lewis. It did not.


Though I know that this was one of the first comedic takes on the “Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde” switched bodies/personas/etc., watching it still felt cliche and contrived. It also just screamed “pay attention to me“, which is a) part of what annoys me about Jerry Lewis’ schtick, and b) why when he directs a film, like he does this one, the films become an constant ego-stroke for him.


It was bad enough to suffer through the prat falls and physical gags and affected vocals as he portrayed intelligent and a introvert as a bad thing, but then you add in the revenge scenario into it which, if Jerry’s character of Professor Kelp was a teenager I would understand, but Kelp is an educated, professional adult who was made a fool of by a jock student in one of his classes.


Add to this is obsession and leering attraction to one of his students and this seems like a recipe for disaster, and job loss.


Kelp concocts a formula that changes him into Dean Martin. No, really, he does. Sure, Lewis may argue that Dean was inspiration for his Buddy Love persona, but I challenge you to watch some video footage of Dean and watch “Buddy Love” and not see the similarities, from how he stands, walks, holds a cigarette, and even his facial expressions. This was the most desperate of moments to me in this film, in a “dating a girl/guy who looks exactly like an ex because you are so not over that ex” kind of way. It was uncomfortable to watch, and felt insulting to both Dean, and Jerry, too.


Stella spent too much time staring off into space, or directly at the camera. I kept waiting for her to break the fourth wall, but no, it was just staring into space. At one point said staring shot was gel filtered for no apparent reason, which was one of many directing flaws that went on in this film.


There is one cinematic success though, in the establishing shot which pans the entire Purple Pit when Buddy first arrives, seen from the eyes of Buddy, not yet ruined by seeing Buddy/Dean Martin himself.

This establishing scene

In many instances the funniest scenes went on too long, or comedic moments were diminished by Jerry’s manic behavior and constant interrupting and up-staging of the other characters. It all made for this strange mix of ego-stroking and desperate insecurities laid bare, and again, was uncomfortable to watch.


The end was completely predictable, with a big reveal and the inevitable speech one why it is better to be oneself. Oh, and of course he gets the girl who for some reason never caught on – even when Buddy’s voice would crack and change into Kelp’s voice or Kelp would speak to Stella as Buddy would – that they were the same person. Really? Honestly? Well, Stella, you would make one hell of a Lois Lane, a character who mistakes a man she was intimate with just by the removal of a pair of glasses.


This movie is just one more reason why I do not enjoy Jerry Lewis as an actor, and honestly I think this will be my last attempt at liking any films he directs and stars in.

Her Rating: Out of 5 stars: 1/2 point for part of the scene when the head of the school stands on the table and starts acting out Hamlet with a Cary Grant style (though Jerry spends the entire scene interrupting him and the scene I was actually liking).


4 thoughts on “The Comedy of Terrors and The Nutty Professor :: His and Hers Drive-In Double Feature (1963)

  1. This is REALLY cool! You put a lot of work and a lot of love into this. I love the collaboration between you two, and really likin’ the Vincent Pricey-ness.

    1. Thanks – we are proud of it, and we have fun doing these posts. We took a break for a spell, but now are back in full force. This weekend I will be doing my horror movie night post, too.

      Vincent Price holds a very special place in my heart for always!!!

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