DVD Review: Who’s Got The Action?

STUDIO: Olive Films | DIRECTOR: Daniel Mann | STARS: Dean Martin, Lana Turner, Eddie Albert, Walter Matthau, Paul Ford, Nita Talbot, John McGiver
RELEASE DATE: 3/27/12 | PRICE: DVD $24.95, Blu-ray $29.95
SPECS: NR | 93 min. | Comedy | 2.35:1 widescreen | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall


One of the joys of watching Dean Martin’s ultra-laidback variety show was seeing him play characters with only the simplest of costumes thrown over a tuxedo. The “king of cool” affects the same blasé attitude in the film Who’s Got The Action?, a fast-paced and quite cuckoo 1962 screwball comedy.

Who's Got The Action pic courtesy of Olive Films

Dean Martin looks for a payout from Walter Matthau in Who's Got The Action?

He plays a high-powered attorney here, but his actual profession is not an issue — although it does serve to explain the splendor he and his novelist wife (Lana Turner, The Postman Always Rings Twice) live in. Action has two main principal appeals: its view of what critic J. Hoberman has called the “dreamlife of America” (in this case, the Mad Men-era Kennedy years), and a terrific supporting cast that includes Nita Talbot, Sgt. Bilko’s Paul Ford, John McGiver (Who’s Minding The Store?), Jack Albertson (Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory) and a mega-hammy and very funny Walter Matthau (Dennis the Menace).

The first half of the picture is silly in the manner of any sitcom episode; the second half is SO brazenly ridiculous that viewers can sit back, forget about the plot and just watch the cast have a good a time. As for said plot, it can be boiled down to this: Lana and Dean’s law partner (Eddie Albert, The Longest Yard) decide to curb Dean’s horse-playing habit by making her his new secret “bookie.”

When Dean’s string of big losses turns into a winning streak — and then he recruits three other gamblers to make bets with Lana — the real mayhem begins. The preceding would’ve been enough to drive any three sitcom episodes, but when Matthau comes on board as a computer-dependent gangster (his Univac knows all the “angles”) intent on reclaiming the four gamblers he lost to Lana, the movie moves to an even higher plane of absurdity.

Scripter Jack Rose had an excellent pedigree in movie comedy writing — from Bob Hope movies and the Martin & Lewis vehicle Living It Up to A Touch of Class — so one can only assume that he was “in” on the joke here and was indeed playing the ultra-illogical storyline strictly for laughs.

There are no extras on the disc, but the rarity of the titles being released by Olive will be enough for most vintage comedy fans. Action was released on disc together with a pair of excellent Frank Tashlin (Rock-A-Bye Baby) comedies starring Jerry Lewis, and the Neil Simon adaptation Come Blow Your Horn, starring Dean’s Rat Pack “pallie,” some guy by the name of Sinatra.

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About Ed

Ed Grant has written about film for a wide range of periodicals, books and websites. He edited the reference book The Motion Picture Guide Annual and, since 1993, has produced and hosted the weekly cable program Media Funhouse, which Time magazine called “the most eclectic and useful movie show on TV.”