Ten years before legendary director Richard Donner would bring the Lethal Weapon team to the big screen, he would make his motion picture directorial debut with the action-comedy buddy pic Salt and Pepper. What do you mean you’ve never heard of it!? Well, to be honest, I had never heard of it either, nor had I heard of the sequel One More Time. Luckily for all of us, KL Studio Classics has released a double feature Blu-ray, with bonus material. So now we can all say we’ve heard of it and warn our friends to stay away from the spice rack.
Salt and Pepper stars Rat Packers Sammy Davis Jr. (Charlie Salt) and Peter Lawford (Chris Pepper) as owners of the hottest night club in town. In this case, the town is London, and our heroes are wrapped up in a plot to overthrow the government. That is what is happening on screen. Off screen this appears to be an attempt to attract a wide audience by stressing to the young generation how hip Sammy Davis Jr. is and focusing the older generation on how sophisticated Peter Lawford is. Lawford may be sophisticated, but it is the talent, versatility, and energy of Davis Jr. that carries this film. Well, at least as far as he could. There is some entertainment here as Davis Jr, sings, dances, and laughs his way through a story that is very slow to develop. Sammy does have lyrics working for him like the classic, “When I say stop, I don’t mean maybe. When I say Go, sock it to me baby!” from the underappreciated song “I Like the Way You Dance”. Peter Lawford on the other hand…is sophisticated.
The true comedy from Salt and Pepper comes from the supporting English actors, especially Michael Bates as the bumbling inspector. We also get a preview into the future of buddy films as our characters make jokes after killing their adversaries. Unfortunately, the humor does not play well here. The movie creates an interesting dynamic, and certainly has its moments, but is not nearly enough to do it one more time. Yet they did, and they called it…One More Time.
Now, I don’t know if they offered the directorial job of the sequel to Richard Donner. I do know that he followed up Salt and Pepper with episodes of the children’s series The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. Perhaps he thought it best to leave the comedy to the experts, or he was somehow being punished for Salt and Pepper.
One More Time would be directed by the legendary Jerry Lewis. This was the first and last time Mr. Lewis would direct a motion picture that he was not starring in. This film doesn’t have the laughs normally found in a Jerry Lewis project, and somehow manages to suck out all the energy found in the first film. Not to say the cast is not trying, but the story gets dark as Salt believes that his best friend is dead. Yes, we find out that Christopher Pepper has a twin brother (also played by Lawford) who is murdered. Chris takes his place to solve both the murder and his financial woes. He also chooses to keep his best friend in the dark, and in grief. So, writer Michael Pertwee chooses to take the most energetic character from the first film and have him grieving.
Nonetheless, Lewis directs Davis Jr. through gag after gag as if it is Jerry himself playing the role. Davis does his best, and Lawford strives for comedy playing dual roles, but there are no laughs to be found. The plot develops beyond the dead brother but takes far too long, at which point the audience could care less that diamonds are being smuggled. One can’t help but think that Martin and Lewis could have done more with the second script, but Lewis could never be as hip as Sammy was in the first film.
Not a lot of bonus material here. Some trailers for other movies and a brief featurette from Trailers From Hell (Salt and Pepper) with Larry Karaszewski.
This new release receives a somewhat hesitant Ron’s Rejection. Sammy Davis Jr. is an incredible performer with a clear desire to please the audience. This comes across in the first film and makes it entertaining to watch for a while, but ultimately, the story is bad, as are the special effects, and it’s hard to get through. It certainly does not leave you wanting to go through it One More Time.