Quick! Before It Melts
The Warner Archive Collection
Quick! Before It Melts
The Warner Archive Collection
1964 / Color / 2:40 enhanced widescreen / 98 min. / Quick, Before It Melts / Street Date June 5, 2015 / available through the WBshop / 18.49
Starring George Maharis, Robert Morse, Anjanette Comer, Yvonne Craig, James Gregory, Michael Constantine, Howard St. John, Norman Fell, Janine Gray, Bernard Fox, Richard LePore, Hal Baylor, Doodles Weaver, Pat Priest.
Cinematography Russell Harlan
Film Editor Fredric Steincamp
Original Music David Rose
Written by Philip Benjamin, Dale Wasserman
Produced by Douglas Laurence, Delbert Mann
Directed by Delbert Mann
MGM’s Quick! Before It Melts falls into a category of studio films that were reportedly striking out left and right in 1965, even though I remember seeing them advertised in the papers and playing at packed drive-ins. All tease and no gravy, these sex comedies betrayed not a hint of relevance to people living or dead. The popular Doris Day movies were waning at this time, but Metro pushed forward with the formula. They did a string of Paula Prentiss – Jim Hutton movies, which had little to recommend them beyond the bright presences of the leading players. Hoping to combine two name actors without a filmic track record, producer-director Delbert Mann (Dear Heart) enlisted George Maharis of TV’s Route 66 and Robert Morse of Broadway fame, and came up with…. something of a mess.
Filmed entirely on MGM sound stages and using a script that could have been written in 1948, Quick! Before It Melts tries to make a wild sex comedy out of the idea of a journalist being stranded at the South Pole with dozens of other female-hungry males… it’s sort of a scientific Operation Mad Ball meets Encounters at the End of the World. Usually, bright personalities saved MGM’s youth sex comedies, like Shirley MacLaine in Ask Any Girl (where is that movie?) or Steve McQueen in The Honeymoon Machine. Even the poster for Quick! Before It Melts promises make-out action that largely doesn’t come about.
Reporter Oliver Cromwell Cannon (Robert Morse) is in hot water with his editor-publisher, Harvey Sweigert (Howard St. John). He’s engaged to Harvey’s daughter Sharon Sweigert (Yvonne Craig), and trying to be both worthy and more secure. Rescue of a sorts comes with a crazy assignment to go to the South Pole, to get the scoop’ on communist subversion that might be afoot in the internationally cooperative research station down there. In his jumping-off stay in New Zealand, Oliver meets photographer Peter Santelli (George Maharis), who is likewise not happy about the idea of sexual isolation in a polar deep freeze. They hit it off with a couple of Anzac ladies, especially half-Maori Tiara Marshall (Anjanette Comer). In the Antarctic the boys try to get accustomed to the weird living quarters — huts buried in snow – and befriend the eccentric researchers and bureaucrats living the bachelor life sans female companionship. Oliver and Peter seek out Russian scientist Mikhail Drozhensky (Michael Constantine) to find that he’s a lovable fuddy-duddy, not a spy. They have to deal with creep George Snell (Norman Fell) and the hardliner Vice Admiral (James Gregory). They’re made the object of hazing pranks and treated as outsiders, until Oliver comes up with a clever ruse to induce Drozhensky to defect — and simultaneously import some attractive women to the base!
Quick! Before It Melts has an interesting trio of actors. We just got over being sentimental about Robert Morse great exit from TV’s Mad Men. I recently had to dig into George Maharis for a commentary on an upcoming Blu-ray for The Satan Bug. Maharis is an extreme case of a TV leading man who one would think would be a shoo-in for feature stardom. He instead laid five or six eggs one after another and pretty much exited the stage. And just this weekend we bade farewell to ingenue sweetheart Yvonne Craig, who turned up numerous times in ’60s movies favored by teenage boys..
Although given 12th billing in this show, Craig does pretty well, certainly holding her own against the other women in the picture, who are on hand mostly to be make-out bait. Craig’s pushy fianceé isn’t all that pleasant of a character, but she’s a bright and lively presence. During most of the picture she’s seen only during phone calls back to civilization, usually lounging alone on a bed, in fetching nightgowns.
Robert Morse is a special case — everybody loves him, but with the exception of a couple of key movies, appropriate roles never surfaced for him. He was particularly awkward when he tried to be a pushy guy with sex on his mind, as in A Guide for the Married Man and in one of Doris Day’s last gasps of quasi-virginity, Where Were You When the Lights Went Out? Yet, for a certain level of impish deviltry Morse cannot be bettered, as in Tony Richardson’s The Loved One. Here
Mope morses about Morse mopes about and chases women he shouldn’t. He of course turns out to be accidentally chaste, in a way that only sexless MGM sex comedies can arrange.
And what’s wrong with George Maharis — it’s like he’s not in the movie. A great looking guy with a rep as a babe magnet (in the fan magazines anyway), Marharis seems made of unbendable plastic. It may not be his fault in the case of this movie. The terribly unfunny show begins with a comedy brawl in a New Zealand pub that may be the worst choreographed scene of its type ever put together. The picture is almost 100 minutes long; in the final analysis I fault MGM’s editorial supervisor Margaret Booth for not tightening it up, dropping some of the embarrassments and giving it some pace.
As programming filler, TCM has often cablecast MGM’s exhibitor sales reels for the 1960s. The one for ’64 has a fairly cute scene of Morse and Comer preparing to get it on while hiding in a cold room (or a snowplow? I forget) while a little penguin interrupts them and otherwise ambles about in a cute way. Setting a cute penguin to a piece of music ought to result in a can’t-lose audience-pleasing scene, like the ‘Baby Elephant Walk’ in Hatari. This movie works its trick penguins, but not enough.
In the final analysis, even though people are running around icy corridors, ducking into storerooms the way people pop into bedrooms in normal sex farces, Quick! Before It Melts doesn’t get much of a sex charge going. The script takes a wide detour around anything racy, the characters all turn out to be only pretending to be naughty and the clownish supporting faces get old in the set-bound confines. We’re released into the bright snow every once in a while, but not much happens there. It’s just a, ‘Whoo-hoo, who’s getting in trouble with the Admiral now?’ kind of story.
The Warner Archive Collection DVD-R of Quick! Before It Melts is an okay transfer of this color and Panavision comedy; director Delbert Mann uses the wide screen mainly to spread out his actors in neat lines. The cameraman of note is veteran Russell Harlan. I guess the great comedy epic about sex in the Antarctic has yet to be made… as real science and military posts on the seventh continent are now thoroughly co-ed, I should think that the place would be torture for some and a fantastic love nest for others. Just imagine bad jokes about frigidity and ‘taking core samples.’ The only present-day irony to Quick! Before It Melts is that, for all we know, the real location at the South Pole may indeed all be melting soon.
Images were difficult to locate for Quick! Before It Melts. I
stole obtained some of mine from a good page called The Classic Movie. I like it — it has breezy coverage of many Warner Archive Collection titles not reviewed elsewhere.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Quick! Before It Melts DVD-R rates:
Movie: Good -
Deaf and Hearing Impaired Friendly? N0; Subtitles: None
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: August 21, 2015