The Original King of Comedy at His Outrageous Best!
If there is even the slightest grain of truth in that statement, then Jerry Lewis is without a doubt the worst comedian to ever grace the big screen, and Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River is a terrible waste of time. I promise you that not once during the presentation did I laugh, chuckle, or even crack the slightest smile at any joke, gag, gesture, or facial expression. It was a laborious affair to simply stay awake, and I was so near to just closing my eyes and taking a delightful little nap.
This is the first Jerry Lewis film that I've seen in its entirety (I've seen bits and pieces of his The Nutty Professor and a few others), and what a terrible way to start. I can only hope that his other stuff is better, or was it Dean who was the true talent in the act? Regardless, after all this time, the numerous jokes made at his expense all have become crystal clear to me.
Facts of the Case
George Lester (Jerry Lewis, Cinderfella, The Geisha Boy) has been pulling scams his entire life. As a young boy, he advertised a telescope to "see the stars"; neighborhood kids flocked to his telescope only to realize it was a fake, and George was simply holding up pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable in front of a hollow tube. All through his life, George concocts outrageous and complicated stunts instead of making an effort to do real work. One day as he leisurely strolls through London, he bumps into Pamela, a beautiful woman who is collecting donations for some charity. George is immediately smitten and asks her to marry him on the spot. In movie time, they are soon betrothed.
Three years later, Pam has filed for divorce from George. She's very unhappy that he has never focused as much time on her as he has on his crazy deals, and she has had enough. But George cannot understand why she wants to leave him and cannot erase his undying love for her. With the divorce nearly finalized, George attempts to visit Pam at her ancestral home, but she isn't there. She's met a new man, Dudley Heath, and they're spending some time elsewhere. For some reason, George decides to turn Pam's luxurious home into the "Hong Kong Gardens and Discotheque."
Pam soon arrives home and is completely aghast. She demands George undo everything he's done to her home, but he says he cannot as it'll cost 25,000 pounds. Not caring what it takes, she says he must or else she'll prosecute and send him to jail.
Not knowing what to do, George turns to an old partner, Willey Homer (Terry-Thomas), who is now a procurement officer for the government of Sumeria. It so happens that the Sumerians have lots of money to waste, and Willey is good at spending it. George has recently learned that Dudley, of Heath Oil, has procured the blueprints for a new high-speed drill. With this information, George decides to steal the plans and sell them to the Sumerians.
But it isn't quite that easy. A botched delivery in Paris forces George to enlist an unsuspecting friend, Fred, to smuggle the plans into Portugal. Fred has had the plans imprinted on his teeth. Once in Portugal, some special drug causes intense pain to develop in Fred's mouth, forcing him to go to a dentist there. But, the Portuguese dentist's assistant is corrupt and is selling copies of the plans herself, and the Sumerians are mad!
How will George unravel this mess? Will the Sumerians kill him and Willey? Can George return Pam's ancestral home to its original glory? Will George and Pam get back together? What about Dudley and his new drill?
Take a peek at the cover provided by our link to Amazon.com located in the top right corner of this review. You see Jerry standing with an attractive woman, Pam, in front of the London Bridge. Well, as this screener sat in my pile for some weeks, I somehow came to the conclusion that this film dealt with Jerry pulling a scam that involved the London Bridge. The entire time I was watching I was also waiting for the twist to get us to that point, yet it doesn't arrive. Still, my erroneous and silly conclusion did not further detract from my enjoyment of the film—as there was no enjoyment to be had in Dumbsville. I simply cannot warn you enough that this is an awful film. No, that doesn't quite cut it; a fuller listing of appropriate adjectives is necessary: awful, vile, dumb, boring, lame, limp, insipid, and asinine. That's better. Let's top that off with some great adjectives to describe George: stupid, self-centered, blind, hammy, idiotic, childish, immature, jealous, unrealistic, shallow, caustic, insensitive, self-centered, and boorish. Put that all together and you can begin to realize just how massive a blunder this movie is.
After suffering through this mess, I did some quick research on the 'net to learn more about Jerry and this film. I am pleased to know that I am not off base and most consider this film the lowlight of his career. Jerry certainly must have been mad at Paramount to jump ship to Columbia to crank out this dog! I wonder if it was worth it. I also wonder which would be more enjoyable at this point, watching Bridge again or playing a game of naked paintball in the desert.
What really hurts this sad excuse for a film is Jerry Lewis. Obviously trying to cater to his comedic strengths, Bridge is absent of humor but filled with moments that will make you cringe. Moments that may have been funny in other films just don't work here: the contorted faces, the silly walks, the jokes, the voices. It all comes across as forced, and it feels more like a bad Jerry Lewis impersonation than a performance by the man himself.
Surprisingly available in an anamorphic widescreen print, Bridge has a slightly sub par transfer. The entire presentation is soft with an almost gauzy feel to the picture; as such, colors are accurate but not vivid and details are a bit washed out. The print is also marred by some light edge enhancement and a good dash of dirt flecks. For the audio track, you get a 2.0 Dolby Digital mix that is inconsistent and mediocre. While the dialogue is clear, the sound effects and musical score often overpower it. Further, the entire track is very hollow and thin.
The only bonus feature on this disc is three trailers for Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River, The Mouse That Roared, and Three Stooges: The Outlaws is Coming.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Pamela Lester, George's estranged wife, goes through a terrible arc in this movie; an arc so bad that it borders on being insulting to women. Not having had the privilege to live through the 1960s, I can only assume her behavior is a sign of those times. Still, it doesn't seem practical how she resolves things with George. Here's how her story basically unfolds: in love with George; mad at George and filing divorce, furious with George for transforming her house into a disco (for no apparent reason!), softening to George as he "puts the moves on her" to make her drop her demands, livid at George for trying to manipulate her, sorry for George as he gets the mumps (the reason the transfer didn't work in Paris), tenderhearted to George who's still sick, mad at George for not being sick (for healing too quickly?), disbelieving as George raises half the money, kind to George as he helps her out, completely forgiving of George as he pays the money. In the end, Pam forgives and forgets and they live happily ever after! What a crock! George is an idiot and should have been divorced and thrown in jail for his tremendous acts of stupidity.
From the opening of the movie with its awful and cheesy theme song to the closing shot of Lewis doing another contorted facial expression, Bridge is a complete loss of a movie. There is nothing of any redeeming value in this film: the story is dumb, the acting is weak, and the humor is nonexistent. Quite simply, you should do everything in your power to stay away from this vile movie. It is not worthy of rental; it's not worthy of purchase; it's not worthy of watching on TV; and it's not even worth a mistaken askew glance while shopping.
Curious about the title? I was, especially in light of my incorrect assumption. The title is a reflection of George, who always seems to do things the hard way; so, instead of raising the bridge, he'd try to lower the river. I can at least be glad that this was explained.
Don't Waste My Time, Bother Somebody Else is hereby found guilty on all counts. For its total disregard for the sanctity of humor, the film is sentenced to a lifetime sentence of solitary confinement.
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• Trailers for Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River, The Mouse That Roared, and Three Stooges: The Outlaws is Coming
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