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DVD Review

DVD cover

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying


Starring: Robert Morse, Michele Lee and Rudy Vallee
Optimum Classic
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: U
Available 04 January 2010

When J. Pierpoint Finch buys a book which promises to teach him how to succeed in business, he could not have expected it to work so spectacularly. Finch, using the advice from his book, quickly climes the corporate ladder from his humble beginnings in the post room. But guile and falsehood will only get you so far without a little talent and disaster threatens to strike when Finch is finally made head of the company's advertising division and charged to produce an important campaign...

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967 - 1 hr, 56 min, 27 sec) is a music comedy directed by David Swift. The film was adapted from a Broadway musical which won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1962. The musical was made into a television show in 1975.

The film is a light piece and whilst it maintains the songs from the show, the colour and movement of the piece never failed to underwhelm me. The film lacks the rousing and memorable songs of a Rogers and Hammerstein musical and its zaniness misses out on a lot of the charm found in a Doris Day movie.

It’s not that Robert Morse is bad in the film, he gurns away like a young Jim Carrey, which is initially amusing, but soon becomes tiresome. The film's innate sexist attitude towards women is part of its cultural heritage, firmly placing the film in an age long gone, in film at least. Now we all have the chance of singing along to "A Secretary is Not a Toy”.

Although I did not recognise many of the actors I would suspect that the majority of them were reprising their roles from the theatre run as overacting appears to be the name of the game, with any subtlety which the film might have shown a distinct casualty to the desire to keep the whole thing moving along at a great speed with much colour and sound. This brash approach does succeed in capturing the imaginary world of the late sixties, though I suspect that this is a reality which mostly existed on the screen rather than in the steel mills of the Midwest.

The film is presented in widescreen 2.30:1 (non-anamorphic) and the picture looks like it has had no enhancement or even restoration, with the print looking past its best. Still, if you are a fan of the show, the picture is watchable without ever being spectacular. For a musical the mono track presents a clear if rather dull rendition of the musical numbers.

The disc only comes with a single extra, the original theatrical trailer (2 min, 49 sec).

Whilst there is undoubtedly an audience out there for this type of thing, ultimately the story and the acting just can't hold a candle to a really good musical.


Charles Packer

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