Directed by Norman Taurog in 1960 and distributed by Paramount Pictures, Visit To A Small Planet stars the late, great Jerry Lewis as an alien named Kreton. When we first meet him, he's bailed on class, much to the dismay of his teacher, and commandeered a spaceship to take him to the planet he's always wanted to visit: Earth. Kreton is confused when he lands in the present day instead of the Civil War era, though at first he thinks he's landed in the right year. Major Roger Spelding (Fred Clark) and his wife Rheba (Lee Patrick) are all set to attend a costume party and are dressed in period attire. When Kreton arrives at their door in similar garb, they assume he's to attend the party as well.
It isn't long, however, before Kreton realizes he's made a mistake. Once he spots a television he starts to sort it out, while soon befriending the Major's pretty daughter Ellen (Joan Blackman) and then soon enough her boyfriend Conrad (Earl Holliman). Curious about their mating habits, he is at first a bit of a third wheel but soon finds himself getting the full ‘Earth experience' including a trip to a beatnik dance party where he proves to be the star of the show. All the while, the Major is starting to figure out Kreton's true origins and, well, his teacher hasn't forgotten about the troublesome missing student either.
Based on a play originally penned by Gore Vidal (who took issue with the casting of Lewis in the lead role that was originally played by Cyril Ritchard on the stage), Visit To A Small Planet isn't anything remotely serious but it is fun if you're in the right mood for it. Lewis isn't stretching here. Like a lot of his earlier films, much of the humor stems from his rubber faced mugging for the camera and over exaggerated facial expressions. Credit where it's due, however… as anyone familiar with Lewis' work will tell you, the guy was really good at it. There's a bit more to his performance than that, however. He does show excellent comedic timing and a great sense of physical comedy throughout the film. He delivers the film's fairly frequent one-liners with aplomb and that scene in the beatnik club? As ridiculous and over the top as it is, well, it's a stand out sequence and it's pretty tough not to laugh at it.
The rest of the cast plays things pretty much entirely straight. Joan Blackman gets the most screen time out of the supporting players and she does well here. She's a pretty ‘girl next door' type and she's just fine in her part here, very likeable and just plain cute. Earl Holliman as her boyfriend is stalwart, the clichéd type of late fifties/early sixties ‘guy' character but again, he does fine. Lee Patrick as the matron of the house is likeable enough, though her role is hardly complex (none of the roles in the film are) while Fred Clark is pretty solid as the Major. He's the one member of the family who is, at least initially, concerned about the fact that they are harboring a being from another planet in their home and as such, he's the starting point for more of the movie's gags than the other players.
The film isn't particularly stylish nor is it remotely complex, but it's efficient. The plot moves nicely and at a pretty brisk pace, ensuring that Lewis gets to do his thing frequently enough to please his fan base. The camerawork is fairly simple but equally effective and the score bops along nicely, complementing the comedy well.The Blu-ray:
Visit To A Small Planet arrives on Blu-ray from Kino on a 25GB disc framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The black and white image generally looks pretty nice here. There's some minor print damage throughout, small white specks and the occasional small scratch, and you will notice it but it's nothing too distracting. The optical effects shots and opening credits sequence look a bit lesser in the quality department than the rest of the film, but it's not a huge deal. Detail is solid, not quite reference quality but definitely very good, while contrast looks fine. Black levels are pretty deep and there's a fair amount of depth and texture in the image.Sound:
The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. Optional closed captioning is provided in English only, there are no alternate language options provided although removable English subtitles are offered. There are no issues here. The single channel mix offers clear dialogue and properly balanced levels on a track that is free of any audible hiss or distortion. The score sounds quite good here too, while dialogue remains clean, clear and easy to follow.Extras:
The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary by Film Historian James L. Neibaur that does a nice job of explaining the picture's origins, noting what was changed along the way and discussing the performances. Of course, there's lots of information here about Lewis' work in the film and his career up to this point but there's plenty of talk about the other cast members involved in the production as well.
Aside from that we get trailers for a few other Kino properties, menus and chapter selection.Final Thoughts:
Visit To A Small Planet is not the film that Jerry Lewis will be remembered for but it is a gloriously goofy slice of sixties sci-fi comedy that will certainly appeal to fans of his early work. Kino Lorber's Blu-ray isn't stacked with extras but it does have a solid commentary included and it presents the film in nice shape. Recommended.