VISIT TO A SMALL PLANET
(1960, Dir. Norman Taurog)
Kino Lorber BD $29.95, DVD $19.95
85 min. / B&W / 2.85:1 / English Subtitles

An interstellar juvenile delinquent named Kreton skips school to come to Earth and study the American Civil War, only he's landed 99 years too late. His teacher decides to let him stay here to learn what losers we earth people really are; Kreton learns about love, and police officers, and pain, roughly in that order. Boy, does he learn HIS lesson.

I’ve never seen the original Gore Vidal play Visit to a Small Planet on which this film is based, although I’ve read it and frankly don’t remember it as being any great interplanetary shakes (the original play was written for television, and starred Cyril "Cap'n Hook" Ritchard). The property was acquired by Paramount in 1959, which thought it would make a good vehicle for Jerry Lewis. They should’ve waited a couple of decades and cast Robin Williams.

Jerry is of course the goofball exchange student from 8 million light years away. He can't observe the Civil War, but his race has done away with sex, so he shows a keen interest in observing THAT, which doesn’t bother Joan Blackman but annoys her boyfriend, Earl Holliman doing an intolerable Jethro Bodine impersonation, a great deal.

Needless to say, Jerry mugs like mad, steps in and out of character, and acts like his usual cross between a nebbish and a nitwit (if there’s a difference). Still, the film is harmless enough, and Jer’s been a lot worse. Fred Clark, Gale Gordon, and John Williams are all on hand to stand around and look exasperated at Jerry’s antics, and if Edgar Kennedy had been alive, he’d probably be in the cast, too. If you do make it to the end of the film (which is a brisk 80 min. long but seems a great sluggish deal longer) you’ll love Jer’s beatnik dance with a gorgeous coffee shop chick. You’ll also be sorry Dino's not around, I’ll bet.

The good news is that the film has been remastere in HD and looks and sounds great. The bad news is that the whole thing is roughly on a par with 1960s comedies like The Misadventures of Merlin Jones or Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, and that's not a good thing. Jim Naibaur does what he can with the full-length commentary, but he's mostly stumped as to what to say about this thing, too. As Lewis movies of the era go, it's awfully tame, and while a tamer Jerry sounds like an improvement, most of the movie is just too darn flat.