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Money from Home

Money from Home(1954)

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The early 1950s arrival of television in homes across America had a well-documented shock effect on Hollywood, who devised a number of gimmicky technological advances to lure viewers back in from their living rooms. By 1953, the popular comedic/musical pairing of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis had already turned out ten popular black-and-white comedies juxtaposing the former's smooth crooning persona with the latter's slapstick, baby-voiced antics. Though its script stays mostly within the parameters of these films, Money from Home upped the ante by adding no less than three audience-baiting novelties: three-track stereo sound (a tactic popularized by 20th Century-Fox), three-strip Technicolor, and 3-D!

Fortunately the final product was solid enough on its own terms to justify this window dressing, and even without Jerry Lewis and galloping horses pouncing out of the screen and into audiences' laps via the miracle of three-dimensional photography, their antics fare just as well on the small screen at home. The story begins with perpetual gambler "Honey Talk" Nelson (Martin) running afoul of loan sharks and other unseemly criminal elements, driving him to concoct a quick-rich scheme to talk his cousin Virgil (Lewis), a veterinary assistant in Maryland, into helping him fix a horse race involving a steed named My Sheba. However, comedic complications ensue when Nelson falls for the horse's pretty owner, Phyllis (Marjie Millar), and Virgil is distracted by animal lover Dr. Claypool (TV regular Pat Crowley). Romantic and criminal mayhem escalates even further when tough gangster Jumbo Schneider (character actor Sheldon Leonard) and his goons turn up gunning for Nelson.

Though no one will ever tag this film as a top-tier masterpiece, the comedy team's fans have long had affection for this film, and with good reason. Even those put off by Lewis' mannerisms during this period should be won over by his deft and oddly heart-rending musical adieu to his animal patients, while the DVD sleeve's endorsement of "their now classic take on Cyrano de Bergerac" (with Lewis pantomiming to Martin's "I Only Have Eyes for You," at least before a feisty dog and channel-switching radio get involved) is an inventive, bravura sequence worth watching at least twice. Aside from a fleeting bit of paddleball, director George Marshall (The Ghost Breakers) takes little advantage of the 3-D format, instead focusing on tried-and-true comic elements like Jerry in Arabic female drag and lots of cute, camera-friendly animals (including a monkey and a two show-stopping, street-crossing canines), and a truly odd climactic punchline that predates Some Like It Hot by several years.

Though Paramount released twelve of the Martin/Lewis films in a pair of recommended box sets in 2006, Money from Home was inexplicably left out, leaving collectors clutching their old VHS tapes from television broadcasts for comfort. When Paramount licensed out a slice of its catalog titles to Legend Films, this title was chosen as one of the first out of the gate along with a handful of other comedy titles like Papa's Delicate Condition and Rhubarb. The DVD release contains the main feature only (well, along with scene selections), but fortunately the new transfer should be enough of an incentive. The combination of classic Technicolor and 3-D yields odd results in a few medium shots (the third reel in particular shows a few registration problems), but the bulk of the film looks bright, colorful and detailed. The two-channel stereo soundtrack doesn't have quite the same panning effect as the theatrical prints, but considered how dead-center most of the sound mix is anyway (apart from Leigh Harline's jaunty score), that isn't much of a compromise. The disc also contains closed captions and is presented full frame, though as with many 1950s titles during the transition to 1.85:1 widescreen cinemas, it has lots of empty space at the top and bottom of the frame-perfect for those who like zooming film in on their widescreen TVs.

For more information about Money From Home, visit Legend Films. To order Money From Home, go to TCM Shopping

by Nathaniel Thompson