As a hapless TV repairman turned aspiring private eye, Jerry Lewis fully indulges his penchant for run-on, fractured reams of off-kilter dialogue that play like monologue in It's Only Money. Boasting of his bona fides to the grumpy trench-coated shamus (Jesse White) he unrequitedly adores, Jerry's Lester March brandishes dog-eared pulps titled The Corpse Came Gift-Wrapped ("It was a warm, tender, embracing part") and Death Takes a Coffee Break ("Wid or widout sugar!"). Amid his non sequiturs, and some mock-authoritative doubletalk detailing his passion for electronics (in which Lewis's voice soars toward the Nutty Professor register he would unveil the following year), Lester is subjected to a stereo train-effects LP that shakes the furniture and conjures a uniformed ticket-taker ("It was the loudest hearing I started to see!"), and after narrowly escaping death in a bomb-laden boat, gratefully paws a burly fisherwoman whose hook drew him to safety: "You made my living life no death!" he yelps before knocking her over the side of a pier.
An intermittently inspired innocent-on-the-loose farce that lacks the formal and physical ambition of the star-producer's other early '60s comedies, It's Only Money may disappoint most in its scarcity of noir spoofing despite its black-and-white images, a crime-jazz parody title theme, and an opening nocturnal explosion (just Lester at work in his repair shop). Instead the plot is a trifling takeoff on threadbare pre-Columbo suspense thrillers about a recently deceased tycoon's fortune, conspiring domestics, and a long-missing heir. Director Frank Tashlin, in his sixth movie with Lewis, agreeably stages Lester's battles with automated lawnmowers, electrified fences, and an ambiguously amorous nurse (Joan O'Brien), and draws neatly cartoonish turns among the second bananas: Zachary Scott as a slimy lawyer, Jack Weston as a childishly enthusiastic hitman butler, and bulbous Mae Questel as the tycoon's spinster sister, preparing for her wedding to scheming Scott with yoga headstands and squealing "Isn't It Romantic?" at a pipe organ.
Tashlin fashions a few unexpected sight gags, like an arsenal of weapons falling next to Weston's kicking feet as he's shaken in midair by his disgruntled boss, but he butters his bread with Jerry-centric set pieces where the oblivious hero pops down manholes like a gopher to avoid a hit-and-run demise, or solves the inheritance mystery by applying razor and shaving cream to an oil painting. This is more palpably a children's film than other Lewis vehicles of the period, perhaps because even the slightly discomfiting make-out scenes with O'Brien are infused with his persona's ardent impishness: "More with the lips!"
IMAGE / SOUND:
The black-and-white visuals are reasonably rich, particularly in a couple of backlot night scenes, and the mono soundtrack is a clear, likely faithful representation of its original fidelity—including the occasional, recognizably looped line of dialogue.
Though bereft of supplements, this silly star showcase would be described by videophile Lester March as "like brand. New."