THE MALTESE BIPPY (1969)
Article 4006 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Norman Panama
Featuring Dan Rowan, Dick Martin, Carol Lynley
What it is: Horror mystery comedy
A man believes that a strange family from next door is trying to turn him into a werewolf.
Anyone who was around during the late sixties/early seventies knows who Rowan and Martin are, as they hosted the hit show “Laugh-In”. However, outside of that show and this movie, I was unaware of anything else they had done, so I checked their individual credits. They’d actually been working together since the late fifties, and they split the team after “Laugh-In”; Rowan was a diabetic who appeared sporadically on TV after that, while Martin would find a lot of work as a TV director. They apparently appeared in three movies together, with this one being probably the most famous, most likely because it was their only starring vehicle at the height of their success. However, the movie was a flop, and I can see why; whatever magic they had on the TV screen dissipated here, where they were required to play characters and not just exchange quips. It’s the kind of movie that, despite the fact that it opens with the two comedians trying to shoot a nudie film, nevertheless ends up with a ‘G’ rating in the theaters. It tries some bizarre comic tricks at the beginning and end of the movie, but for the most part it’s a bland and predictable variation of the “old dark house” movie, and the only werewolf action is during a dream sequence. It’s also startlingly unfunny; I only came close to laughing once, and that was at Martin’s response to Rowan’s set-up line “I’m not sterile.” There’s a little fun to be had with an assortment of familiar actors; Fritz Weaver, Julie Newmar, Robert Reed, Leon Askin and Mildred Natwick are all on hand, and, if anything, they’re more fun than the leads. I actually thought the script seemed like it would have worked better for Abbott and Costello; there were a few times I imagined Rowan’s lines being said by Bud Abbott and Martin’s lines being said by Lou Costello, and I could get a feel on how much funnier they might have been. As it is, there is a reason we don’t have a whole slew of Rowan and Martin movies out there.