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How To Murder Your Wife

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    Mark Tolch
    Senior Member

  • How To Murder Your Wife



    Released By: Olive Films
    Released On: February 17th, 2015.
    Director: Richard Quine
    Cast: Jack Lemmon, Virna Lisi, Terry-Thomas, Eddie Mayehoff
    Year: 1965
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Film:

    How To Murder Your Wife tells the tale of Stanley Ford (Jack Lemmon) a New York City bachelor who is living a life that many men can only dream of. As creator of the widely syndicated Bash Brannigan (Secret Agent) comic strip, he's able to maintain a luxury townhouse, a kickass man-servant named Charles, membership at a Men's Club, and a hefty appetite for alcohol. Sure, Stanley's got women in his life as well, as evidenced by the many articles of clothing that he keeps finding under his bed. Even his job is a blast, dressing up like Bash Brannigan and staging the many events that happen in his comic strip, making sure that he's not making Bash do anything that he couldn't do himself; and with Charles following him with a camera during these mock adventures, he's able to easily transfer the images to his work.

    Yes, it's a bachelor's life for Stanley, and he wouldn't have it any other way. When one of his friends winds up on the receiving end of a cancelled marriage engagement, Stanley and his matrimony-hatin' buddies have a huge party to celebrate, singing songs to celebrate their solidarity,getting absolutely legless on cocktails, and being entertained by a busty Italian beauty who pops out of a cake wearing little more than a smile. But when Stanley wakes up the next morning, a hangover isn't the only thing that greets him; the cake lady is sleeping next to him, sporting a flashy wedding ring. As the night comes back in bits and pieces, Stanley realizes that alcohol sometimes leads to poor decisions, that his drunk judge friends have the power vested in them to pronounce people husband and wife, and that his bachelor life is over.

    When every conversation about annulment ends with a trip to the bedroom, Stanley tries to acclimate himself to married life. Goodbye cocktails, Men's Club, and one-night stands; even the faithful Charles is heading out, determined that working for a married couple will be too much of a burden. The new Mrs. Ford, despite speaking next to no English, soon has the house stacked with boxes of new clothes, womanly decorative touches, and a small yappy dog. Financial decisions that come with marriage now have to be made, the mother-in-law is coming to visit, and Bash Brannigan becomes "The Brannigans", a humorous look at domestication in which Stanley is the butt of the jokes.

    Determined to get back some control in his life, Stanley enlists the help of Charles once more, and concocts an elaborate plan for "Bash Brannigan" to murder his wife and regain his super-spy status. A drugged cocktail at a party, a lookalike mannequin, a super-powerful remote control and a cement mixer all come together perfectly, and Stanley once again assumes the role of Brannigan, carrying out the plan. Of course, when the real Mrs. Ford is suddenly nowhere to be seen and Bash's murderous adventures are published in the paper, Stanley finds himself on trial for homicide, his motive and method laid out for the world to see in over 400 newspapers worldwide.

    How To Murder Your Wife is a completely bizarre film that could and would never be made in this day and age. It's funny as hell, but it could be successfully argued that the humour stems from a misogyny that is no longer acceptable. Actually, just about every aspect of humour in the film could be considered horribly outdated; case in point, the fact that Stanley's new wife doesn't speak english apparently requires speaking to her in a "White man make-um heap big trouble" dialect. Which again, is funny, but more in a "Did they actually just do that?" kind of way. However, by the time the film reaches its conclusion with Stanley's outrageous defence in the courtroom, a sense that satire may be at work starts to creep in around the edges. Screenwriter George Axelrod, who also wrote Breakfast At Tiffany's, couldn't actually...seriously...be saying any of this, could he?

    Misogyny aside, How To Murder Your Wife is an enjoyable film with a lot to like. The cast is terrific, with Virna Lisi stealing just about every scene she's in (despite the lack of dialogue) and Terry-Thomas and Eddie Mayehoff complimenting Jack Lemmon's offbeat performance. At almost 2 hours, it does drag a bit toward the third act, but not so much that it becomes unenjoyable. Quine's direction is also commendable, taking grand advantage of 60's New York City, but also reigning it in nicely for the few serious moments in the film. All in all, you might feel bad about it...but you're going to laugh, and laugh a lot.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Olive brings How To Murder Your Wife to blu-ray in a great looking 1.66:1 transfer. Detail is sharp when it should be (though there are a number of intentionally soft-looking scenes in the film), with good black levels. Though there are a few instances of print damage on display and a bit of what looks like dirt, the film looks great for being a half-century old.

    The DTS-HD Master Audio stereo track is also good, with no hisses, noises, or pops to be heard. Dialogue is clear and concise, and nicely balanced with the soundtrack.

    A trailer is also included.

    The Final Word:

    Another solid release from Olive. It won't appeal to everyone, but fans of the film will be impressed with this presentation.



    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!






















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