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Surprise Package (1960)

“You don’t know the difference between right and wrong anymore.”

“Sure I do. Wrong is when you get caught.”

Surprise Package

So answers Yul Brynner to girlfriend Mitzi Gaynor’s statement in this comedy set in the Greek Isles where Brynner’s gangster has been exiled. To top that off he’s been ousted as the head of the syndicate back in the U.S.A.

Producer/director Stanley Donen gives us this romantic comedy that kind of grows on you as it moves along despite that fact that it’s far from anyone’s best work here.

Brynner dressed in black as was his custom immediately tries to muscle in on the local police and find out who lives in the only palace on the island. That way he can evict them and take over the premises for himself. It’s none other than Noel Coward. Turns out he is of noble blood and is himself in exile with a crown of jewels to match. It’s the jewels that set the plot in motion and the planning of the heist to acquire them.

noel coward

It’s all played lightly and Donen allows Mitzi and Noel to give us an intimate song and dance number of the movies title while Yul looks on. There are a few double crosses in here with some nefarious characters involved who are themselves after the jewels and plenty of assassination attempts on Yul’s life from the syndicate back home. Not to worry as it’s all played for fun.

Surprise Package

Overall the film struggles to find it’s footing with some rapid fire delivery and sloppy looking camera work at the initial outset. Once the film moves to the Greek Isles what it really needed was a budget that allowed for color photography as the black and white doesn’t capture the beauty of the ancient worlds or Mitzi Gaynor for that matter. Too bad.

mitzi-gaynor-1963

Nothing is terribly exciting as far as the heist goes and despite all the films flaws I came away realizing it slowly crept up on me and it’s likable enough. Having said that I freely admit that if it wasn’t for the coolest man in black this side of Johnny Cash, I probably wouldn’t have given it a look. Yul Brynner is one of those actors with the magnetism to pull you in. It’s a pity that he wasn’t used more efficiently through out his career with a larger body of titles to his name.

surprise package 4

After watching the film and doing a quick bit of research on Mitzi Gaynor I found it surprising that this was her second last film before retiring from the screen. I thought she came off perfect here as the gangster’s moll who isn’t just the stereotypical character one sometimes expects. Her final film was in 1963 opposite Kirk Douglas in For Love or Money.

I found this title via the Made On Demand orders from Columbia.

surprise

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