The Nutty Professor (1963) – Jerry Lewis

The next mad scientist film up for viewing in DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies book is this classic 60s comedy starring and directed by Jerry Lewis. I remember seeing this one when I was a kid, when our base theater used to have Saturday matinees and this was one of the titles I saw there. It wasn’t  what I expected, but I definitely remember enjoying it once I got into it, munching my Mike & Ikes.

The film follows a dweebish professor, Julius Kelp (Lewis), who wants to improve his social life, and does so through a unique potion he has created, It turns him into the suave, debonair and incredibly obnoxious Buddy Love (also Lewis).

It’s a Jekyll and Hyde story filled with laughs as Kelp tries to find love, helped and hindered in turns by Love. The focus of his amorous intent is one of his students, the lovely Stella Purdy (Stella Stevens).

The humor is broad, the comedy is physical, and Lewis is in his element, but Buddy Love is nowhere near as charming as he thinks he is, and then there’s the whole issue that Kelp wants to date one of his students.

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Still, it’s a fun film, has some swinging tunes, and has stood the test of time pretty well. Sure, there are people who don’t care for Lewis’ comedy style, and his nerdy scientist has almost become a cliche at this point.

You can tell the film was done in the early days of color films, because it so very much wants to highlight all the primary colors that permeate the film. And one gets so hung up on the fact that Lewis is starring in the film (and co-wrote it) that you forget he directed it as well.

He does a fairly handy job directing, knowing how to extend a comedic moment, and knowing how to keep his story rolling, even though the story is paper thin, and themes aren’t explored, as the film favors the laugh over the message.

It’s something to watch him in his nerdish Kelp character, and how easy it makes it appear, the physical moments, and the physical way he carries and moves himself. It’s pretty impressive, and still elicits laughs.

This one makes for a fun escape from some of the darker, bloodier films that have graced some of the mad scientist chapter. It’s a bit of respite from the horror…

Remember though, you don’t have to take my word for it, pick up a copy of DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies by director John Landis, and find something macabre to watch tonight.

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