The Big Mouth (1967)


(director/writer: Jerry Lewis; screenwriter: Bill Richmond; cinematographer: W. Wallace Kelley; editor: Russel Wiles; music: Harry Betts; cast: Jerry Lewis (Gerald Clamson/Syd Valentine), Harold J Stone (Thor), Susan Bay (Suzie Cartwright), Buddy Lester (Studs), Del Moore (Mr. Hodges), Paul Lambert (Moxie), Jeannine Riley (Bambi Berman), Leonard Stone (Fong), Charlie Callas (Rex), Frank De Vol (Bogart), Vern Rowe (Gunner), John Nolan (Mr. Webster, FBI agent), Colonel Sanders (Himself); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Jerry Lewis; Columbia; 1967)

“It’s at least bearable.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination. But for a Jerry Lewis (“The Patsy”/”The Nutty Professor”/”The Bellboy”) film that he stars, co- writes with Bill Richmond, directs and produces, it’s at least bearable. The sight gags, chases and slapstick are worn thin with familiarity, the film’s pacing is ragged, the comic’s timing is off, the stale jokes are mostly not funny and the slight story is overlong. But there were at least a few mild chuckles to be had with such tepid childish nonsense, like seeing the real Colonel Sanders act bossy in a hotel and Jerry run through Sea World.

Meek and spastic bank auditor Gerald Clamson (Jerry Lewis) is surf fishing in the Pacific Ocean during his vacation in San Diego when he hooks a frogman in a black rubber suit. The man is a diamond smuggler being chased by the mob in a boat. It seems he betrayed them, and his last breathes to Gerald are not to let “them” get the diamonds. Before he dies, he gives Gerald a map where he hid the diamonds and tells him to go to the nearby Hilton Hotel. The mob chases after the fisherman, feeling he may be an accomplice.

Gerald has a problem with the obsequious or bullying hotel clerk (Del Moore), who reverts to a bully as he refuses to allow the nobody bumbler Gerald into the hotel. Therefore Gerald dons a disguise of funny glasses and buck-teeth to masquerade as a square simpleton Japanese man of enormous wealth (a disguise he seems to pull in just about every pic). When he looks natural he meets a sweet airline stewardess, Suzie (Susan Bay), who lives at the hotel, and falls immediately in love with her but has trouble explaining his problem even though they become romantically involved and she’s so sincere. Gerard is chased as an intruder by the hotel staff when not in disguise and also chased by the diamond smugglers through the hotel and Sea World because he’s an exact double for the frogman diamond smuggler named Syd Valentine.

The gang is led by the bellowing crime boss Thor (Harold J Stone). During the chase the goons start going crazy one at a time when they see someone who is alive they are absolutely sure should be dead (one of the hoods, Gunner, regresses to a dog at the sight of Syd, who is really Gerald), since they sprayed Syd with a machine gun from close range on the beach, torpedoed him and buried him in the ocean. Gerald is also being chased by a gang of four led by Moxie (Paul Lambert), with whom Syd made them a deal to sell the smuggled diamonds that were supposed to go to Thor’s mob. All concerned, including a vicious diamond smuggler fence Mr. Fong (Leonard Stone), end up back at the beach of the original crime scene in a massive chase leading them out to the ocean. There they confront Gerald’s sinister doppelganger and somehow the nonsense story finds a nonsensical way to conclude, as told by a narrator whose serious side is undermined by appearing in the last shot in his underwear.

As a comedian Jerry is no Tati, Keaton or Chaplin, but his clumsy childish efforts as a bumbler might appeal to children ten years and younger. This was the seventh film Jerry directed, showing no signs that things will ever get much better with him as director.