Pardners (1956)

Or: Jerry Makes Goofy Faces at Deano While Taking a Dump

Packed with tired clichés and technical gaffes, this is one of the worst slapstick comedies (a generally pitiful genre, to be fair) ever made. That this shoddy, wildly outdated City Slickers precursor was even given the go-ahead is testament to the popularity of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, the musical-comedy duo that ruled the box office in the early 1950s with gold-encrusted fists. They could have done a silent film called Jerry Makes Goofy Faces at Deano While Taking a Dump and it would have packed cinemas. That's how bankable these guys were, no matter how crappy the onscreen product.

More interesting than the film are its underlying themes. For starters, Lewis acts as though he's retarded. He did this a lot when paired with Martin, who always played his cool, macho self. One wonders: Did Lewis go on to become one of the all-time-great handicapable charity fundraisers out of genuine compassion, or out of guilt?

Second, consider the Pardners' plotline: Rich-boy New Yorker Lewis cuts out on his tall socialite fiancée to chase a whiskey-soaked rancher (Martin) across the country. Along the way he showers the rancher with expensive gifts in order to win his affection and approval. Occasionally the pair break into song. Pardners was either the first gay road flick or a pioneering example of what has come to be known in pop-culture parlance as a "boy crush." -- Mike Seely

Each week the author treks to the Schlafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library, where a staff member blindfolds him and escorts him to the movie shelves. After selecting a film at random, Seely checks it out and reviews it.

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