DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

WONDER MAN (director: Bruce Humberstone; screenwriters: story by Arthur Sheekman/Don Hartman/ Philip Rapp/ Melville Shavelson/Jack Jevne/Eddie Moran; cinematographers: Victor Milner/William Snyder; editor: Daniel Mandell ; music:  Ray Heindorf; cast: Danny Kaye (Edwin Dingle/Buzzy Bellew), Virginia Mayo (Ellen Shanley), Vera-Ellen (Midge Mallon), Allen Jenkins (Chimp), Edward Brophy (Torso), Donald Woods (Monte Rossen), S.A. Sakall (Schmidt), Steve Cochran (Ten Grand Jackson), Otto Kruger (District Attorney), Huntz Hall  (Sailor), Gisela Werbiseck (Mrs. Schmidt); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Samuel Goldwyn; Embassy Home Entertainment; 1945)

"An eye-catching colorful musical comedy."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Danny Kaye's first feature film Up in Arms (1944) was a hit, so producer Samuel Goldwyn made him again the star of his second feature--an eye-catching colorful musical comedy. Kaye has a dual role of playing both twins, as the film goes into Topper territory. The film's special effects were so innovative, that John Fulton won an Oscar for his fine work. Adroit filmmaker Bruce Humberstone ("Ten Wanted Men"/"Pin-Up Girl"/"I Wake Up Screaming") does a nice job of allowing the hyper Kaye to showcase his many talents, ranging from romance to song to comedy. Writers Arthur Sheekman, Don Hartman, Philip Rapp, Melville Shavelson, Jack Jevne and Eddie Moran keep the story line going by creating a watchable fantasy story. There are only a few stretches of tedium.

Buzzy Bellew (Danny Kaye) is the brash headliner song and dance man at the Pelican Club in Manhattan. He testifies to the DA (Otto Kruger) he witnessed mobster Ten Grand Jackson (Steve Cochran) strangle to death in the street a fan dancer, whose real name is a mystery. Under her real name, she has stored in a safety-deposit box evidence that would put Ten Grand behind bars for a long time. Ten Grand gets out on bail and hires Chimp (Allen Jenkins) and Torso (Edward Brophy) to bump off the eye-witness. They kill Buzzy in his dressing room and dump his body in a lake at Prospect Park. From the other world Buzzy makes contact with his estranged clairvoyant twin brother Edwin Dingle (Kaye again), a timid, bespectacled bookworm, geek, who while on a dinner date leaves his sweet and sincere librarian girlfriend Ellen Shanley (Virginia Mayo) to go to Brooklyn's Prospect Park because he's hauntingly summoned there by someone named Buzzy. At the park he encounters the ghost of his brother, whose real name is Buster. The brothers quickly reunite after not seeing each other for the last ten years. Buster now wants his scholarly brother to avenge his death with the mobster, and offers ghostly help by entering his body during critical times. Edwin also must marry his twin's showbiz partner, Midge (Vera-Ellen), while he is being pursued by the same hit men who are puzzled that Buzzy is still alive when they spot lookalike Edwin at the Pelican Club.

Kaye is a ball of manic energy, who becomes increasingly silly and tiresome as the film reaches its climax and his performance goes from marvelous to a bit too much ham for my taste.

S.A. Sakall has a small part as a befuddled deli store owner, while Donald Woods is the nightclub manager who marries Vera-Ellen when Buzzy is a no show at the altar.

Danny Kaye's composer wife, Sylvia Fine, created several wonderful specialty numbers for her hubby, which included the lively "Bali Boogie."

REVIEWED ON 4/2/2015       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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