Starring: Jack Lemmon, Virna Lisi, Terry-Thomas
Director: Richard Quine
Running Time: 118 mins
How To Murder Your Wife is an American film about a bachelor living the high life who, after a drunken night out, finds himself unexpectedly married. Frustrated with the situation, he sets out to plan the murder of his new wife.
Disregarding the fact that the title’s a little off-putting, How To Murder Your Wife is a decent screwball comedy, something that we didn’t see too much of in the 1960s. With strong performances across the board, and a decent sense of humour. It maybe doesn’t live up to the potential of its bizarre title, but it’s still an easy-going and light-hearted watch.
Now, the main thing that I’ve got to point out about this film is the nature of the humour, which some may consider a little sexist. The first line of the film, for instance, ends with the women going ‘back to their kitchens…where they belong’.
If you look at this film in a modern context, it’s likely that some may be slightly offended, but actually, following the way the film plays out, it’s not that sexist at all. Yes, a few jokes here and there do demonstrate dated attitudes, but you also get a lot of women making fun of men, and, as many screwballs do so well, often end up getting the upper hand on their husbands in various hilarious ways.
So, as a disclaimer, don’t watch this if you’re hyper-sensitive to that sort of humour, but if you can turn a blind eye to some of it, there’s a lot to enjoy here. The best of all comes from the performances from all of the lead actors. Jack Lemmon plays a role that blends his classically more nervous character with an assured, successful man, and he does it really well.
Beyond Lemmon, however, you’ve got some brilliantly fun performances from the likes of Virna Lisi, Terry-Thomas, Eddie Mayehoff and Claire Trevor. All the actors embrace the bizarre plot in this film, and do a great job at bringing a light-hearted sense of humour to it all, which makes it a very easy watch.
The plot isn’t quite as good as the acting or the humour. On the whole, this is a very predictable and generic screwball that doesn’t offer too much in terms of the story as you’d like. It’s great for an easy watch, but that doesn’t mean it’s a great film, and there are definitely a few lull periods where the comedy settles down in exchange for some plot exposition, but it’s never particularly interesting to follow.
The light-hearted atmosphere takes away from the actual details of the plot, and, maybe with some slightly better writing, this could have been both an engaging and fun film, but on the whole, it’s a simple, easy watch with some good laughs and fun performances, and that’s why it gets a 7.2 from me.