Oddball Hall

Director: Jackson Hunsicker
Cast: Don Ameche, Burgess Meredith, Bill Maynard

Oddball Hall is...well...odd. That may be why the major studio that picked this up never, to my knowledge, theatrically released this. Though odder is the question why they picked it up in the first place. While there are few actively bad sequences, the whole exercise is slow, uneventful, and largely unfunny.

The plot: Four aged crooks are hiding out in a South African village, posing as members of a fraternal order called the Oddballs. How they came to the village a year earlier and took over the empty Oddball lodge is never explained. It's soon revealed that many years earlier, the crooks were involved in a big jewel heist, and are now awaiting the chance to leave the village. When the next train arrives, they'll meet their fence. (And why they have waited for so long to cash in on their theft is also never answered.) The train is delayed, and the crooks are stuck in the village. Shortly after, they get word that the Grand Oddball Master is visiting their order, and is expecting to see that the Oddballs have involved themselves with the tradition of good deeds.

During all of this, some distance from the village, a bushman chieftain has ordered one of his sons to go to civilization to find "wizards" that will help bring water back to their people. The bushman (who resembles N!xau from The Gods Must Be Crazy) travels to the village, getting into all sorts of "hilarious slapstick", making the resemblance to TGMBC more apparent. Arriving at the village, he is thought to be the Grand Oddball Master, and he thinks the Oddballs, wearing their uniforms, are the "wizards".

Oh yes, at the same time, there are two former members of the gang arriving to get revenge, and - surprise! - the real Grand Oddball Master arrives.

With the heat and light of the environment combined with the aged actors slogging through the production, everything about the production is tired and tiring. It's not that it couldn't have been funny, but there's no heart or effort from the actors to the director. The South African scenery away from the village is spectacular, as in other B-movies shot in Africa that I've seen. But stunning scenery does not a film make. None of the crooks really seem different from each other, and Meredith is noticeably off-camera and inactive on-camera for most of the movie (at this stage of his life, he was having to be lifted off chairs and led to the sets). Don Ameche gives it his best shot under the circumstances (and has most of the dialogue), though his fans won't be missing much if they pass on this misfire.

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)

See also: Bunny O'Hare, Fire Sale, The In-Laws