Paramount // 1960 // 71 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 29th, 2004
You'll check in sane...and check out nuts!
Welcome to the Fontainebleau Hotel in beautiful Miami Beach, Florida! Sit back, relax, and enjoy your stay...unless, that is, Stanley the bellboy has anything to do with it! The near mute Stanley (legendary comedian Jerry Lewis) has a hard time getting things right. The manager is always frustrated that he can't seem to get the simplest task done without botching it up. His buddies think he's slow, and poor Stanley can't even catch a break trying to walk the guest's dogs. Yet through it all Stanley attempts to do his job with a smile...and a trip...and a stumble.
I have to admit that The Bellboy is the first Jerry Lewis movie I've seen. My knowledge of the main is slim. The three things I know are: 1.) He does that whole Jerry's Kids tel-a-thon thingy, 2.) He used to work with Dean Martin and 3.) Jerry is really, really big in France. Other than that, I can't tell you much else. So, I went into The Bellboy with a fairly clean slate. I can honestly say that I enjoyed the film much more than anticipated. Though Lewis is often poked fun at by other comedians and is considered almost too obnoxious for his own good (and yet, ironically, Jim Carrey remains bafflingly popular), this early directorial effort is filled with a lot of well-meaning laughs.
The interesting thing about The Bellboy is that it hasn't a lick of plot anywhere in its 71 minute run time. The movie is just a series of scenes and dilemmas for Jerry Lewis to wrap his pratfalls around. Lewis runs around the movie as the silent Stanley, an exasperated bellboy who can't seem to do anything right. Stanley's attempts at walking dogs, carrying a guest's luggage and giving out messages are always fraught with difficulty from start to finish. Along the way, Lewis uses his physical prowess to great extent. That is what the entire movie is about: nothing more, nothing less.
There were many scenes that got me giggling, as when a line-up of bellboys attempted to figure out which one of them the manager is calling to the front desk. Lewis's natural gifts for physical comedy shine through, even when the scenes sometimes stretch out to almost annoying lengths (one where Lewis is waiting for an elevator wears itself thin very quickly). One of the funnier moments -- and an idea that almost seems ahead of its time -- is having Stanley the bellboy (played by Lewis) meet up with the real Jerry Lewis, who is staying at the hotel. Milton Berle joins in the fun, and this entire sequence (which I won't divulge because it's so surprising and funny) is the most entertaining sequence in the film.
You know, it's nice to find a movie that's funnier than you anticipated, and The Bellboy is most certainly that. While it's not fall-down funny -- and some of it hasn't aged very well -- Lewis shows that he was truly a talented comedian and a man who knew how to wring a laugh out of almost any situation. Finally, something both the French and I can agree on!
The Bellboy is presented in its original aspect ratio of what appears to be 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfer on this disc is very good -- Paramount has made sure that the black and white color scheme is in good shape without any major defects marring the transfer. The whites are crisply rendered and the black levels are all solid and well defined. For a film well over 45 years old, The Bellboy appears to be in very good shape.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in both English and -- surprise, surprise -- French. There isn't a whole lot to say about this mix. Because it's a mono track the sound appears very canned and lacks any true dynamics. However, the bulk of the sound is clear of hiss and distortion. Also included on this disc are English and Spanish subtitles.
Paramount has included a few extra features on this first ever DVD edition of The Bellboy. The best is a commentary track by Jerry Lewis and Steve Lawrence. Lewis spends the bulk of the time talking about the production, the physical aspect of the comedy, and a bit of history on its conception and screenplay. Though he sometimes can sound a big smug (as when Lewis talks about how he financed the film himself), this is basically a good commentary that will thrill those who want to learn more about Lewis's films.
Also included are some archival materials (posters, et cetera), as well as a mildly amusing theatrical trailer for the film featuring Lewis surrounded by a bunch of attractive females.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 71 Minutes
Release Year: 1960
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary Track by Jerry Lewis and Steve Lawrence
* Archival Materials
* Theatrical Trailer