Directed by Daniel Mann in 1962 for Paramount Pictures (who have licensed it along with a bunch of other titles for DVD release to Olive Films, who continue to have one of the most interesting catalogues going these days), Who's Got The Action? features a script by Jack Rose and is based on the novel originally titledFour Horseplayers Are Missing by Alexander Rose (the novel was rereleased in mass market paperback edition under the movie's title around the time of its theatrical release).
The movie follows the exploits of a man named Steve Flood (played with a typically cool easy going style by the late, great Dean Martin) who is married to a beautiful woman named Melanie (Lana Turner). Their marriage has seen better days when we meet them, the main problem in their collective life together being Steve's fairly ridiculous addiction to gambling. Melanie comes up with a plan to teach her husband a lesson and to hopefully steer him straight when she convinces Steve's business partner, Clint Morgan (Eddie Albert), to pose as his bookie. This seems to be working until a local mob boss named Tony Gagouts (Walter Matthau), who has a bizarre electronically controlled room from where he bases his operations, gets word that someone is moving in on his racket and decides to put a stop to it. When Steve hits it big and gets lucky for a spell, Melanie winds up having to sell off jewelry and other belongings to cash him out in order to not blow the sting, while Tony and his main squeeze, Saturday Knight (Nita Talbot) move in on Morgan.
How much you get out of this one is going to depend almost entirely on your appreciation for the cast. The story itself is a little played out and predictable and while it's a fun yarn about the perils of games of chance, you're not really going to be on the edge of your seat wondering how it all plays out. The film does, however, feature a pretty great cast. Lana Turner is beautiful here, playing her role with more smarts than most of the other cast members and all the better for it, while Eddie Albert is amusing as Steve's partner. A young Walter Matthau steals a few scenes as the legitimately dangerous gang boss and his back and forth with Nina Talbot is sometimes the highlight of the film. Backing all of this, however, is Dean Martin, a man so full of swagger, charisma, and likely a fair bit of scotch that you can't help but like him. He seems to be sort of wandering through the film more or less playing himself here, and he makes it all seem very easy - probably because for him, it was. The guy had confidence to spare and then some, and as goofy as all of this is, he was absolutely the right choice for the lead role.
Mann directs the film with enough style to periodically impress and it all moves at a fairly good pace. It's quite a dialogue heavy picture at times but the comedy is effective enough even if it understandably feels like a product of its time. Of course the whole thing is as improbable as it is preposterous - there's no regard for realism here and Melanie's plan is quite obviously a bad idea right from the start but the movie carries through with it regardless and it manages to provide a pretty decent amount of laughs as it does. It's all fairly disposable and fluffy, but as far as simple, fun, comedic entertainment goes you could certainly do a whole lot worse than this one.
Who's Got The Action? looks pretty nice in this 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from Olive Films. Once again, there could have probably been a bit more cleanup work done to the picture but the print damage that does appear is minimal. Colors look decent even if they're not eye popping while black levels are consistent if not inky black. Skin tones look nice and natural, the film's grain structure is intact and untinkered with and there are no issues at all with any compression artifacts or edge enhancement to note. If this isn't a perfect, pristine transfer it's certainly a very decent one.
Also fine is the movie's English language Dolby Digital Mono track. Dialogue is clean and clear and if there are one or two instances where things get a little shrill, there aren't any serious issues with any hiss or distortion to note. Levels are properly balanced, the score sounds nice and for an older mono mix, there's not much to complain about here.
There are no extras on the disc, just a static menu and chapter stops.
Who's Got The Action? isn't a lost classic or anything but it's a fun diversion with a great cast, all of whom seem to be having a good time with the material. Olive Films' DVD release could have used some extras and definitely comes up short in that area but otherwise offers up the movie in fine shape and comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.