Monday, April 6, 2009

A guide for the married man

It has been said that men cheat for the same reason that dogs lick themselves in unsavory places: becuase they can. If that is so, then it was only a matter of time before a film like this came out.

Paul Manning (Walter Matthau) is the average subburban husband/father, who finds himself unstimulated by his attractive and loving wife Ruth (Inger Stevens) and is constantly tempted by the seemingly endless supplies of young butts (there are dozens of shots of the postyerior in the film). Paul employes the help of his friend Ed to show him how to cheat in an elaborate and secretive fashion so he may get the best of both worlds.

The film is filled with (but not dominated by) little vinettes of numerous nameless men's methods of the ups and downs of infidelity. In every scene, Paul is taught a different lesson about "the game." Never bring the affair home; if you're married, don't venture outside that realm; it's for the good of your arraige. With every passing scene, the fine line between saying monogomous and disregarding marital vows gets smaller and intensity grows. Paul's carnal lust becomes all the more powerful, but Ruth's simple loving loyalty keeps bringing him back to her.

Eventually, he meets an allimony client that becomes very interested in him. Just as he has her in the motel room, all the windows covered, the doors locked, every detail from the previous few months carefully orchestrated for him to finally take this other plunge, he backs out. In the knick of time too, they barely escape the motel room as his pal Ed is caught by his picture snapping wife, presumably leading to a harsh divorce.

Relavtively stiff Paul is scarred stiffer by the incident. When he sees a room full of women, he avoids entering. An elevator exclusively consisting of X chromosomes results in his taking the fire escape. He speeds home from work everyday to see his wife and children and as he enters the door, little sing along words appear at the bottom to emphasize that the director does not believe in the moralistic message he has just presented.

Paul looks like a less attractive version of Richard Nixon, and Ed like a not-too-aesthetically pleasing JFK. Perhaps because this director wishes to indicate that no one is clean, and all have their little secrets. The disproportionate physical apperances of the men and women in the film shows two things:
1) director Gene has an affinity for blondes (as there is not a single unattractive one in the film).
2) The looks of men is unimportant, these older married gentlemen seem to pick up women far out of their leagues with relative ease.

The doom of Ed is spelled out for anyone watching when he and Paul are in the steam room, when Paul is reconsidering being dishonest with Ruth. The fog in the room suggests that Paul is being misguided, and that Ed does not know what he is doing.

If you're not a frustrated married man, then this film is still worth watching for its comedic value, interesting opening quotes, and its solid story.


  1. This is really a good review of this film. I saw it years and years ago on ordinary TV, with commercials, and there were a few scenes that really made me laugh. I'm glad you enjoyed it, and that you tried to elevate it beyond what most people would see as a fairly simple, (thought racy for its time) comedy.

  2. Remind me again, where did you actually see this movie???