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  Salt & Pepper The Much Diminished Rat Pack
Year: 1968
Director: Richard Donner
Stars: Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford, Michael Bates, Ilona Rodgers, John Le Mesurier, Graham Stark, Ernest Clark, Jeanne Roland, Robert Dorning, Robertson Hare, Geoffrey Lumsden, William Mervyn, Llewellyn Rees, Mark Singleton, Michael Trubshawe, Jeremy Lloyd
Genre: Comedy, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Charles Salt (Sammy Davis Jr) and Christopher Pepper (Peter Lawford) are nightclub owners in London's Soho who have been called in by Police Inspector Crabbe (Michael Bates) on a very serious charge: one of their dancers accidentally lost their G-string while on stage, and he takes a very dim view of it. He makes it known he has his eye on them, but lets them go with a warning; what the boys don't know is that soon they will be the subject of an investigation far higher up the chain of authority when a Chinese call girl is discovered dead on their premises...

By 1968 the Rat Pack, those louche hedonists and entertainers, had pretty much dissolved, but they continued to make entertainment appearances, and if there was a more self-indulgent example of that than Salt & Pepper it was hard to think of. It starred the two old pals Davis and Lawford, was produced by them, and looked to be designed more to give them something to do to pass the time rather than supply product for cinema audiences to lap up. They had the money to spend, so why not? appeared to be the reasoning, and if anyone else wanted to join them on the way, so much the better.

Naturally, this sort of thing was swiftly indentified as two rich blokes arseing around for an hour and a half at their leisure, so the reaction was not particularly great, certainly from the critics who had no time for such trifles, but age has offered this a quaint glamour all its own as the duo attempted to see if they could get some of that Swinging London sparkle to rub off on them. The plot, as was regulation for this type of affair, had our heroes mixed up in a spy ring, but James Bond this was not as they tried to get as much mileage out of the bumbling of Salt and Pepper as they could possibly muster.

Well, that was the case for the first hour or so, as after that they had to wise up and turn far more capable to thwart the evil schemes of a would-be coup on the United Kingdom. Lawford, being British (well, sort of) plays the patriotic sort who takes Davis (with a remarkable hairdo) along with him, but where you might expect these two to spend their time drinking, smoking and womanising, while there is an element of those activities, much of this was spent footling around with sketch-like humour (Davis even sings a song with the repeated refrain "Sock it to me!" as if this was TV's Laugh-In). There followed much self-deprecatory set-ups as they fumbled their way towards the truth, which as was often the way conjured up some very strange moments.

Stuff like Sammy Davis Jr kicking John Le Mesurier in the bollocks, which was understandable at least because the latter had been trying to kill the former, but could also be chalked up to scenes you never thought you'd see, or never expected to anyway. Then there's Salt's new car, which is decked out with various gadgets for the traditional chase, but while in the back projection-heavy closeups it's Davis driving, in the location shots he had been quite plainly been replaced by a white man. It gets weirder, with Sammy turning killer, not only saving Peter from an assassin, but then later massacring a whole bunch of Le Mesurier's henchmen at their country house base of operations. You never thought you'd see someone as charming as him turn so bloodthirsty, but there you go. There was also an in-joke where he propositioned a group of dancers who declined him - but when he got to the May Britt lookalike he declined her. That was about the level of this, so if you had an interest in throwaway glitz - directed by Richard Donner no less - this was worthwhile. Music by John Dankworth.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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