Saturday, June 07, 2008

Kazoo Kazoo

I WONDER WHO’S KILLING HER NOW? is something of a discovery. Mixing dabs of Second City, THE MONKEES, Monty Python and early Woody Allen (the screenplay was written by Mickey Rose, who penned BANANAS and TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN), this inexpensive comedy is a silly and often very funny compendium of sight gags, clever wordplay and goofy accents. I remember it used to play a lot on television and was later released on VHS with an unappealing box with costar Bill Dana’s face (no offense to Bill Dana's face) on it, so it probably never was rented out very much.

Bob Dishy, a New York actor with a background in musical comedy (and seen earlier this year on a LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT), plays a rare film lead as Jordan Oliver, an embezzling ne’er-do-well who plans to bump off his wife Clarisse (a game Joanna Barnes) for her life insurance. After hiring eccentric Captain Bobo (Bill Dana) to do the job, Oliver learns that a mistake at the insurance company has resulted in Clarisse’s policy being invalid. Hoping to prevent his wife’s death, Oliver tracks down Bobo, who tells him that he has subcontracted the murder to someone else, who subcontracted someone else, who subcontracted…

The film’s biggest laughs result from Steven H. Stern (THE HARRAD EXPERIMENT) pointing his camera at his talented supporting cast and letting them do their schtick. In addition to Dana (doing a variation of his Jose Jimenez routine), the hired killers include Harvey Jason as an Indian musician, Jack DeLeon (whose flaming gay was a semi-regular on BARNEY MILLER) as a Lugosi-like mad scientist, George Memmoli (from the Ace Trucking Company) as his assistant in drag, Richard Libertini (THE IN-LAWS) as a CIA agent and Vito Scotti as an Italian in Mussolini’s army. Much of the funny business happens in one master shot, which makes Stern’s film often play like a typical mid-‘70s TV variety show.

As is often the case with gag-a-minute films, I WONDER WHO’S KILLING HER NOW? peters out before its 84 minutes are up (the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker comedies usually do this too), but don’t let this stop you from checking out this unsung comedy, which is available on DVD from Mills Creek in one of those 50-movie box sets. Also with Jay Robinson as a hammy actor (great casting there), Ian Wolfe as a sarcastic butler, Severn Darden (in three roles), Steve Franken, Angelo Rossitto, Albert Cole and Pat Morita. Rose tackled the same sort of material in his directorial debut, the slasher-movie spoof STUDENT BODIES, which suffered from not having a cast nearly this good.

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