If he had three nuts, Judge Paul Corupe would be in search of a good director and a cut of the movie rights.
Lose your head…and your inhibitions!
It wasn't until the "nudie cutie" craze of the early 1960s that audiences really caught their first glimpses of bared female flesh on the big screen; mostly in silly, low-budget films with paper-thin plotlines about peeping toms and nudist camp hijinks. While the wags who dominated the upstart genre, like Russ Meyer and David F. Friedman, combed west coast strip shows and burlesque parlors to discover their well-endowed (but decidedly anonymous) stars, it was comedian Tommy Noonan who hit on the idea of pushing the no-name peelers aside and giving viewers bona fide movie stars in various states of undress. And why not? Playboy magazine had already been doing it on the printed page for years, perhaps most famously with Marilyn Monroe, to unprecedented success. After starring in the tepid 1963 Jayne Mansfield nudie flick Promises! Promises!, he concocted the witty screwball comedy 3 Nuts in Search of a Bolt, a wild trip back to the lost art of cocktail hour humor and sophisticated cads.
Facts of the Case
Mamie Van Doren (Untamed Youth) plays insecure stripper Saxie Symbol, who, along with her budget-minded roommates (a drunken used car salesman (Paul Gilbert, Cat Ballou) and a narcissistic male model (John Cronin, Twsit Around the Clock)), hits upon a scheme to get top notch psychiatric help for their hang-ups at a mere third of the price. They hire struggling actor/comedian Tommy Noonan (playing himself, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) to make an hour-long appointment with renowned headshrinker Dr. Maya Von (Ziva Rodann, College Confidential), and act out each of their neuroses for twenty minutes apiece. But when Noonan's hectic couch trips are accidentally aired on TV, the public is fascinated by his seeming triple personality disorder.
Highball meets highbrow in this underrated little onscreen romp that plays off of an energetic premise, a little naughtiness, and the all-but-lost art of ribald humor. Directed by star Noonan, 3 Nuts In Search of a Bolt is like an 80-minute vintage Playboy cartoon, or a barely offensive 1960s "adult humor" comedy album come to life. It's a witty little exploitation that flick that gently chides all manner of 1960s pop-cult obsessions like gentleman's clubs, psychiatry, women's rights, and a manly cocktail intake.
Unfortunately, the film has trouble maintaining its comedic momentum, especially as the plot turns its attention to dealing with Noonan's accidental celebrity. Even then, there's still the lingering promise of Van Doren's nude scene that would have kept viewers glued to their seats, even if the jokes, for all intents and purposes, stop hitting their mark. Unlike Jayne Mansfield in Noonan's earlier film, however, Mamie wasn't fully ready to take it all off on the big screen (though she did in a Playboy pictorial to promote the film), so instead, she keeps her back to the camera during the film's legendary beer bath sequence, in which she rolls around in a big tub o' suds. Other scenes, in which she sings and strips on stage while singing bawdy ballads, are equally demure, as she's clad in panties and pasties. Interestingly, the film is shot in black and white, but switches to color for all of Van Doren's potential flesh-baring scenes.
Never one for subtlety, Noonan absolutely goes to town on his part, overplaying his hand more than once. The rest of the actors are far better than they should be in this relatively cheap film. Van Doren plays the blonde bombshell to the hilt, but she has some good comic timing and seems to be having fun with her part, talking about how she resents all the men in her stage show leering at her (just one of several winking references to the ogling audience). Gilbert and Cronin are also good, but they're fully aware that this is director Noonan and star Van Doren's show all the way, so they wisely remain in the background. It's character actor T.C. Jones (Head) who really steals the show, however, as Dr. Von's effeminate, bald-headed assistant Henry, who just has to make sure that his mother can listen in on by phone on all of Dr. Von's juicy sessions.
3 Nuts in Search of a Bolt looks just great compared to its earlier VHS incarnations, but it still leaves a little to be desired. First of all, the 1.78:1 transfer isn't anamorphic, and some scenes feature artifacts and grain—especially the washed-out color sequences. Sound is thin and prone to occasional distortion, but this is a passable mono track. There's even a nice side of extras on here, headlined by a recent 45-minute interview with Van Doren, in which she talks extensively about the film and her life. It's definitely worth a watch for fans. Also on this release is a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, where the topless on-set photos of Van Doren are tucked away, along with some posters and stills, plus some text biographies and a pair of trailers from 3 Nuts In Search of a Bolt: one naughty, and one nice.
Years and years ago, flipping through a copy of The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, I came across an instantly iconic image of a disturbed and grizzled-looking man pouring a bottle of cheap hooch over his Wheaties. It was a still from 3 Nuts in Search of a Bolt. From that moment on, I knew that I'd have to track down the film, and since then it has become a personal favorite. While it definitely doesn't deliver the goods on Van Doren's heavily advertised nude scene, it's still a nutty little low-budget flick that captures the ribald (but oh-so-coy) sexuality of the early sixties. A nostalgic cocktail shaker full of skin and sin.
Not guilty by reason of insanity.
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