Judge Daryl Loomis often impersonates generals, but it doesn't get him the free coffee he deserves.
You could have your head blown off and still say something witty.
While Danny Kaye (On the Riviera) had been a mainstay on stage and screen since the mid-1940s, his film career was pretty well washed up by 1961 when On the Double was released. He would only star in two other pictures and, while his television show was fairly popular during its few seasons, his style of comedy wasn't selling on the big screen any longer. Now, the wartime comedy that is On the Double arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films and so, with an admitted distaste for Kaye's antics, let's have a look.
Facts of the Case
PFC Ernie Williams (Kaye) is the army joker, the real highlight of his outfit. He's in England helping out the British forces, but the impersonations of his superiors, while getting laughs from the troops, gets him into way more trouble than he ever imagined. When he tries to get off base during a lockdown by pretending to be the commanding officer and gets caught, the brass gives him a choice. He can take his court martial or he can continue the ruse in an operation to fool the Germans. He's a coward, but it's better than the brig, so he keeps it up. What he doesn't realize, though, is that there is an assassination attempt coming and Ernie's code name is Dead Pigeon.
I might have had a better attitude about On the Double if I had ever actually liked Danny Kaye's bit, but I've never been able to get over his relentless mugging for the camera and mediocre acting skill to appreciate his singing and dancing talent. And even if I could get past all that, there aren't enough musical numbers to make the movie worth it. There are only three and none of the songs is that great, but at the very least, it breaks up the action, which is tiresome.
The movie is a conglomeration of older Danny Kaye movies, any of which are a better experience than this. The dual role stuff was done ten years earlier in On the Riviera and the plot is a direct rip off of Bob Hope's My Favorite Spy, where it wasn't very interesting in the first place. If you really love Kaye, then watching him go through the motions might well be fine, but I could hardly tolerate it.
The only real reason to watch On the Double, though it doesn't really help all that much, is the work of the supporting performers. Chief among them is the lovely Dana Wynter (Invasion of the Body Snatchers), who plays the general's wife with a ton of charm and grace, almost making a relationship that blooms over the course of a couple of days believable, though Kaye's antics shoot the chance of feeling any kind of real emotion right in the foot. Wilfrid Hyde-White (The Third Man) takes an amusing turn as a fellow officer and Margaret Rutherford (Murder Most Foul) delivers the funniest performance as the general's mean, drunken aunt, but neither is able to lift the movie enough to make me want to recommend it on any level.
On the Double arrives on Blu-ray from Olive Films with a mediocre release. The 2.35:1/1080p image transfer is nice and clean with no trace of digital enhancement, but the colors are off throughout the movie. Reds look orange, skin tones look yellow, and it looks washed out throughout the frame. It's at its worst during the scenes in which Kaye plays the dual roles where the frame looks to be from a different, more damaged source, and it's clear that no real restoration work has been done to the print. The audio quality fares a little better, with a mono mix that runs a little flat. The dialog is clear enough and it perks up a little during the musical numbers, but is overall underwhelming. No extras on the disc.
On the Double would have been standard-issue Danny Kaye fare if had been released in 1950, but ten years later it feels like a tired act. Luckily, Dana Wynter's charm makes it somewhat watchable, but we've seen all of this before. With the bare-bones presentation, this disc is for only the most hardcore of Danny Kaye fans.
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