Mar 8, 2018

How to Murder Your Wife (1965)


Picture the plight of the American married man post WWII; the economy was booming at a rate never seen since the dawn of civilization - and he was at the apex.  The workplace was his domain, and everywhere he went there were desirable ladies itching for a ring on their finger.  Is it any wonder that so many films during this period told the tale of the plight of the married man: the comfortable life in a Pleasant Valley suburb... Or the swingin' bachelor lifestyle.  Quite a quandary.


We recently covered A Guide for the Married Man starring Walter Matthew; this film isn't that much different.  The main character is a well to do gentleman who pines for the single life - in spite of the fact that he's got a smoking hot wife who waits upon his every need.

And just as in A Guide for the Married Man, the conflicted male finally learns (in the last few minutes of the film) that the married life is indeed the right way, and the single life is best left in the rear view mirror.... Despite the fact that basically the entire film serves as an argument to the contrary.

At the start of the film we meet Jack Lemmon, Mr. Stanley Ford, a bachelor who literally has it all.  A posh apartment downtown with a gentleman manservant (think Mr. French in Family Affair).  He lives the single man's dream, shagging every night and doing as he pleases.

How does he afford such a lifestyle?  He writes a comic strip, oddly enough.  Even odder, he enacts the swashbuckling adventures of his comic strip hero himself.  His manservant takes pictures and he renders them for the Sunday funnies.  Yeah, it makes no sense.

Things take a bad turn for Mr. Ford when he gets smashed at a bachelor party and ends up marrying the gal who jumps out of the cake.

The cake girl is played by Virna Lisi, and I will say she looks absolutely dynamite.  My only complaint is that the director isn't near perverted enough to sell the sizzle.  She barely provides any sort of eye candy - keeping things solidly in the Rated G zone.  Miss Lisi's assets were woefully underused; but what little we get, is well appreciated.

Mr. Ford immediately tries to get a divorce; however, his lawyer explains that he's consummated the marriage, can't prove infidelity, etc.  So, he's stuck with one of the hottest women on the planet (who happens to be the runner to the Miss Galaxy pageant).  The one downside (if you can even call it that) is that she is Italian, and doesn't speak a word of English.

Predictably, Mrs. Ford starts to cramp his style.  His manservant leaves, she brings her Italian mother to live with them, she watches TV all night, he starts to gain weight, etc.  Mr. Ford has had enough of this marriage business, and decides to take matters into his own hands.

Does he try and kill Mrs. Ford as the title proclaims?  Not really; his ploy is to make it look like she's died and then getting rid of her (I didn't quite get it, but I was too tired to care).  The plan involves slipping her a Mickey, which causes her to act the fool at a party.

This is by far the sexiest scene of the film.  Again, I'm not completely sure why it was necessary to have her get publicly intoxicated, but I'm not complaining.

And so, when she wakes up, she takes a look at his comics and discovers his ridiculous plan to get rid of her.  She leaves for Italy, while it looks as though (via an asinine plot involving a mannequin) he's actually killed her.

There's an overlong court scene where Mr. Ford is tried for her murder.  The all male jury acquits him - evidently because they are all henpecked and want to do the same to their own wives.  It's really quite macabre and misogynistic.

Speaking of macabre misogyny,  when Mr. Ford and his manservant return to his apartment after the trial, they find that Mrs. Ford has returned.  The manservant literally hands him a gun and tells him to blow her brains out because he can't be tried twice for the same crime!

As you might have guessed, Mr. Ford is more than happy to spend the rest of his life with his Italian minx.... But there's really no explanation, or believable progression to this point.  So, it kind of falls flat.

I mean, she looks great, so I can fully understand why he wants to jump back in the sack with her - but how did he go from wanting her gone to happily betrothed?  Oh well, at least it's over.

As much as I enjoyed seeing the cool sets and shenanigans of the 1960s swingin' bachelor, the film is painfully devoid of laughs and energy.  Also, Jack Lemmon wouldn't have been my first choice

★☆☆

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