Call Me Mister DVD Review: That’s MISTER Mister to You

Adapting a series of comedic sketches into a feature film is probably not the wisest move one can make. Sure, those Monty Python boys did a reasonable job recreating many of their BBC skits for And Now For Something Completely Different, but it still didn’t possess the panache their feature-length comedies held – nor did it have the same magic as their original televised sketches did. Now just imagine what might happen were one to take a musical/comedy revue and turn it into a film. Actually, you really don’t have to imagine what might happen: Twentieth Century Fox’s 1951 post-war musical Call Me Mister is a pretty damn good example.

Inspired by a Harold Rome/Arnold Auerbach revue of the same name (which appeared on Broadway in 1946), the makers of the filmic version of Call Me Mister decided to completely desert the entire sketch aspect of the tale – centering instead on a newly-developed plot about a charming USO entertainer who runs into her estranged husband in Japan after the final days of World War II. Gone are seven of the ten Harold Rome song and dance routines as seen and heard in the original play; replaced here with five other numbers – as written by Sammy Fain & Mack Gordon, Earl K. Brent & Jerry Seelen, and Francis Ash – with somewhat uninteresting choreography by the one and only Busby Berkley.

Here, we find the talented Betty Grable as Kay Hudson, who has recently arrived in the Land of the Rising Sun (which had recently been set by the Yankees) in order to entertain the troops. Little does she know, however, that her husband, Sgt. Shep Dooley (Dan Dailey) – whom she has been separated from for sometime now – is also near. Shep – a fellow who isn’t shy about conning others if it’ll get him somewhere – does his best to reconnect with his legally-binded missus, though Kay might just have her sights set on a handsome Captain (the late Dale Robertson). And that’s really about all there is on plot concerning our protagonists: he’s really not that likable, and she doesn’t stand out nearly enough.

Fortunately, the makers of Call Me Mister opted to hire the great Danny Thomas as a supporting character, and it is his moments in the movie that stand out more so than most of the others. Numerous other parts are filled by Richard Boone, Jeffrey Hunter, and Frank Fontaine; and there’s a musical number called “Japanese Girl Like ‘Merican Boy” that borders on having the film retitled Call Me Offended.

Essentially, Fox took an item that was made solely for the stage and tried way too hard to turn it into something to compete with other – better – musicals of the time. It’s not a great film by any means, but I’ve seen much worse, too.

Fox brings this seldom-seen and unsurprisingly not-so-memorable mediocre (but still entertaining) musical to DVD via its line of Manufactured-on-Demand releases, Fox Cinema Archives. Presented in its original 1.33:1 ratio with a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio mix, the Technicolor title looks and sounds absolutely fine – and one has to wonder if this wasn’t intended for a DVD set at one point or another. If it was, then whatever special features they had lined up for it have been ditched for this MOD DVD-R release, as Call Me Mister is a completely barebones affair.

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Luigi Bastardo

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