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That Funny Feeling

That Funny Feeling
1965 / Color / 1:85 anamorphic 16:9 / 94 min. / Street Date August 3, 2004 / 14.98
Starring Sandra Dee, Bobby Darin, Donald O'Connor, Nita Talbot, Larry Storch, Leo G. Carroll, James Westerfield, Robert Strauss
Cinematography Clifford Stine
Art Direction Alexander Golitzen, George C. Webb
Film Editor Gene Milford
Original Music Bobby Darin
Mattes and animation Jim Danforth
Written by David R. Schwartz, Norman Barasch & Carroll Moore
Produced by Harry Keller
Directed by Richard Thorpe

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

That Funny Feeling is a fairly feeble comedy with the unpromising acting duo of Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin, two big names not particularly suited for romantic laughs. The tiresome script develops a sitcom situation into a big deal that never takes off, and a host of charming supporting players do their best in a losing situation.

The movie is an excellent example of the high production gloss Universal could conjure up in the middle 60s. Without any particular creative spark in view, the show is cheerfully bland.


Working housemaid and aspiring actress Joan Howell (Sandra Dee) takes advantage of the fact that one of the apartments she cleans is free for ten days, to move in and impress a young man she's met, publishing executive Tom Milford (Bobby Darin). The only problem, is, it's his apartment. Instead of objecting, and curious as to who she is, Tom goes along with the game and moves in with his unhappy partner/boss Harvey Granson (Donald O'Connor). But Joan's tenement-mates Audrey (Nita Talbot) and Luther (Larry Storch) get in on the act and are soon holding parties at their borrowed place, all to impress the confused tenant.

Sandra Dee was a pert talent with a limited range; her flawless looks and pouting face seemed perfect for the 1960 A Summer Place, especially when paired off with the equally weightless Troy Donahue - they were made for each other. But she's not Doris Day, and her painfully contrived character lacks charm. It's the screenplay's fault of course, dolling her up like a fashion model to go to houses as a cleaning woman ("Cleaning Woman!") and then pulling off a series of unlikely stunts suited to a much more stylized screwball comedy. Carol Lombard might have been able to pull it all off, but making any Hollywood star play a cleaning woman just causes credibility problems. The connection to real workers seems rather condescending, not to mention the script's frequent unfunny jokes about Asians. Dee is even stretches her eyes back into slits at one point. Anyway, there's a definite disconnect when we're supposed to accept the idea of a ravishing, designer-clad white chick running around Manhattan cleaning luxury apartments.

Bobby Darin could sing up a storm but never made it as a movie actor, usually taking cameo parts or embarrassing himself looking for serious attention in groaners like Pressure Point. His features were tiny and delicate and his acting wasn't particularly expressive - he always seems to be trying too hard. The screwy thing was that in real life Darin was known to be a gentleman hipster, truly loveable and charming and a killer singer on stage; it's too bad that in That Funny Feeling he comes off as a bad imitation of Dean Martin.

The mechanics of the script creak loudly. Forced is too kind a word for the "she-took-my-apartment-but-I'm-too-surprised-to-object" story hook; it smells like a bad twist on the plot cooked up by William Holden's writer in Sunset Blvd., where a day teacher and a night teacher share the same classroom but never meet. It's properly worked out for logic, with roommates suspecting that Darin is a slick operator and pawnbroker Leo G. Carroll offering cute romantic advice in a sort of John McGiver capacity. It's elaborate and well-meaning but as a comedy it's a resounding thud.

Nita Talbot stood out as a girl in a bar in the Film Noir On Dangerous Ground thirteen years earlier. She tries hard to be an Eve Arden or Audrey Meadows-type sidekick for Dee, without much luck. The rest of the cast are familiar faces like Larry Storch, Robert Strauss, Kathleen Freeman, Larry Blake, Arte Johnson, Rita Shaw and Minerva Urecal. They'd be delightful support in a well-written comedy. Stuck with weak material they stand out for what they are, little one-note non-characters to make the leads look more attractive.

Universal's production is as standard as standard can get. Richard Thorpe was studio efficiency personified, grinding out dozens of MGM pix consistently high in class but devoid of individuality; this is one of his last movies after starting in 1923. With the studio's department heads still hogging credit in several production categories, there's little incentive but to put out generic-quality work. The lighting is uniformly high-key and the design of the apartments garishly flat, approximating the cartoonish simplicity of television sitcoms. The color is exaggerated, so much so that when the unfunny parade of Darin's ex-girlfriends shows up for the ending scene, they're all dressed like Christmas ornaments. They need to be, if they're to stand out from the already gaudy decor.

Universal's New York street sets look better than usual thanks to matte paintings by special effects whiz Jim Danforth; they're the picture's one visual pleasure. When location filming made a big comeback in a couple of years, Danforth's specialty would become all but extinct, at least for pictures with a contemporary setting. Danforth is also listed as providing special stop motion animation; I'm guessing that his work is the quick journey past Saturn to Earth in the prologue. It's very smooth.

Universal's DVD of That Funny Feeling looks splendid. The enhanced transfer squeezes out every drop of chroma from the over-saturated ready-for-color-TV images. Bobby Darin's lush title tune sounds good over the titles but flops at the laughless fadeout. This is a great curiosity disc to snoop out what Darin and Dee were like (it helps us understand the Candy Clark joke in American Graffiti). It will also inspire insecure comedy writers to think that maybe their material isn't so bad after all.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, That Funny Feeling rates:
Movie: Fair but good for curiosity value
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Trailer
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: August 26, 2004

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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