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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Way...Way Out

Just to keep sci-fi from being too serious, 20th Century Fox released, Way...Way Out (WWO) in late 1966 as a spoof on the space program and the Cold War. It stars Jerry Lewis as the reluctant astronaut, Peter Mattamore. He and Connie Stevens are sent to the moon as a hastily arranged married couple to staff America's lunar weather base. Anita Ekberg and Dick Shawn play the Russians.

Quick Plot Synopsis
In the future (1989, according to the poster) NASA has a problem. It's two-man lunar team have gone nuts. One of them has become a woman-obssessed psychopath. Both are sick of each other. The Russian team has been fine, since it is a man and a woman. Professor Quonset must relieve his dysfunctional team in three days, and has been ordered to send a man and wife pair. The trouble is, the young couple he's chosen have had a lover's spat and refuse to go. Next on the list is Peter Mattamore (Lewis), who has been avoiding space duty since day one. Only two women in the program are qualified: the dumpy Miss Davenport and the kittenish Miss Forbes (Stevens). She objects to the forced marriage of convenience (for NASA). Peter tries to coax her by being charming, but fails. They agree to a marriage-in-name-only, for the scientific opportunity. Once on the moon, and the crazed old team departed, Peter and Eileen try to settle in. They are visited by the beautiful Russian cosmonaut, Anna. She immediately clings to Peter, spawning jealousy in Eileen. Anna wants to sleep over, as she and the overly amorous Igor had a spat. Igor comes over too and a Russian Party ensues with much drunkenness. It ends when Peter and Igor have a comic fight with weightless gags. When Peter awakens, three days later, he is told there is a Cold War crisis. He is ordered to "secure the moon". He clobbers Igor, but the crisis was nothing. Nevermind. Anna has decided she wants Igor to marry her. He just wants the informal free love they've had thus far. Anna tells Igor she's pregnant. A virtual wedding is conducted from earth. The Russians crow about the first baby born on the moon being yet another Russian first. Quonset and all of NASA are chagrinned at being "beaten" by the Russians. Eileen tells Quonset not to worry, she is just as far along as Anna -- even though only married for 5 days. Quonset is puzzled but happy. Peter is confused. Eileen is just as pregnant because Anna isn't. She just said it to get Igor to marry her. Eileen hints heavily that she and Peter should work on making America first. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
It's a Jerry Lewis comedy. It is supposed to be fun. The humor is less slapstick and more "adult", with many innuendos or outright sexual references.

Cold War Angle
As a spoof, the Cold War gets its share. At one point, General Hallenby tells Peter that the world is on the brink of nuclear armageddon because the Russians moved troops into someplace (which they can't recall). Three minutes later, the crisis has passed. It was all a misunderstanding. It was the Russian Peace Corps.

Project Moon Base II -- Back in 1953, Project Moon Base set up the story in which an American male astronaut and a pretty young female astronaut are temporarily alone together on "Moon Base One." Since America would be shocked at an unmarried couple co-habitating, they are married via a televised ceremony. WWO repeats this trope, but with the marriage occurring before liftoff instead of on the moon. Igor and Anna, however, did get the televised ceremony. The notion of America being shocked was more sincere in 1953. By 1966, "free love" was becoming mainstream enough that the moral shock was more spoof than reality.

Lighter Lewis -- Jerry Lewis was already famous for his zany slapstick humor. At 40 years old, his "crazy kid" schtick would have seemed forced. In WWO, he calls on his more subtle style. This, he pulls off rather well. Note the scene where it's their first night on the moon. She insists that he sleep on the couch -- no hanky panky. He keeps delivering lines like, "After being awake for 72 hours, a man needs sleep. All he wants to do is go to be and do it." -- all with a straight face.

Musical Connection -- The title music is played by Gary Lewis and the Playboys. Gary is Jerry Lewis' son. His band was a going concern, starting in 1960 and having a number one hit in 1965 -- "This Diamond Ring." The title, (oft repeated in the lyrics) is so charmingly 60s.

Car Geek Moment -- Not everyone is fascinated by "cars of the future" from the 50s and 60s, but those who are, get a brief treat. Just before the launch, Peter is driven up to the launch site in the Ford Aurora station wagon. Very cool. As he walks to the gantry, in the background are three other "future" cars to help suggest that the story takes place in 1989, not 1966. The red one is the GM X-Stiletto. The gray one looks like the Pontiac Banshee ('64), but it is hard to get a good look. Too many people in the way. Briefly visible, too, is the blue GM Runabout, also from 1964. 20th Century Fox had some pull, apparently.

Bottom line? WWO is an entertaining spoof. While not one of Lewis' bigger, funnier movies, it has plenty of moments. As sci-fi, it is pretty "lite".

1 comment:

Unknown said...

as a Car Geek I know the gary car is not a Pontica Banshee but a GM Firebird IV (1964), teh rest of cars ore ok. Besides Peter's own car is a Ford Allegro Fastback Coupe Concept (1963).

Regards from Spain