By Richard Winters
My Rating: 2 out of 10
4-Word Review: Money in the chair.
Mario (Vittorio Gassman) is a struggling barber who gets word that his rich aunt has left him a large inheritance. When he gets to her estate he finds the place nearly empty except for some old chairs piled up into a corner. Angered he decides to sell the chairs to a local antique dealer so he can at least make some money off of them. After he sells them he finds a note from his deceased aunt stating that there was a large amount of money sewn up inside one of them. In a panic he goes running back to the shop, but finds that they have already been sold off to various customers, so he along with Pat (Sharon Tate) who worked at the shop and wants to help him as long as she gets a part of the take go on a mad dash to seek out the chairs and retrieve them one-by-one until they can find the money.
The film is based on the classic 1928 Russian novel that has been made into several film versions including one by Mel Brooks that came out a couple of years after this one. I’ve never read the novel, but this film clearly does not do it any justice. The humor is lame and cartoonish and barely able to equal a weak Tom and Jerry cartoon or uninspired Disney flick. The budget is low and the scenes all have a perpetually cheesy, schlocky feel. The Herb Alpert-like music sounds like it was edited in off of an audio cassette recording. The whole thing is quite derivative and dull despite the wide variety of characters and locales.
The film’s biggest claim to fame is being Tate’s only starring vehicle and this didn’t get released until well after her death. She is very beautiful and surprisingly engaging and comical and her presence is the best thing about the movie. She even does a nude scene along with the equally tantalizing Ottavia Piccolo when they both go topless and then get into bed on either side of Gassman, which is the film’s one and only provocative moment.
The supporting cast is full of some old pros that get badly wasted. Terry-Thomas is one of the funniest character actors of all-time, but here he is shockingly boring and forgettable. Orson Welles hams it up in make-up as a pretentious stage actor whose play he is performing in becomes a catastrophe in the film’s only slightly amusing moment.
The color is faded and shot with no imagination or flair. Although there is some nudity the filmmaker’s would have been better served had they cut it out and aimed it solely for the kids as the humor is so broad and silly that only a three-year-old could possibly find it entertaining and even that is no guarantee.
My Rating: 2 out of 10
Released: October 7, 1969
Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes
Director: Nicholas Gessmer
Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures