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I Wonder Who's Killing Her Now?
(a.k.a. Kill My Wife...Please!)
(1976)
 

Director: Stephen H. Stern                      
Cast:
Bob Dishy, Joanna Barnes, Bill Dana


I Wonder Who's Killing Her Now? is a scream; it's one of the funniest movies that I've seen in a long time. It's definitely worth a trip out of your way to rent, especially since it's almost impossible to find under any of its titles. How this slipped into obscurity is beyond me, because it has all the makings of an instant cult classic.

Oliver (Dishy), a greedy self-indulgent sleaze has just run out of luck; he has just been caught after stealing $250,000 from his father-in-law's company. After he's fired, he is told that he can have the charges dropped if he pays back the money in 30 days - which he doesn't have. To make matters worse, his rich wife has not only had the servants stop talking to him, but has announced she is cutting him off and discussing divorce with her lawyer, even though her lawyer at the costume party that night (while dressed as a rat) tells her, "Divorce could put a serious strain on your marriage." Oliver tried desperately to raise the money, even going as far as to put his collection of paintings for sale. He only gets an offer of $25,000 - for the picture frames.

Depressed, Oliver spends the next afternoon at a movie revival house, watching the old Ronald Reason movie Die Die My Pet (listen to the dialogue of the movie carefully). An idea starts to form in his head while watching the movie, but first he asks the cashier what happens to the Ronald Reason character in the movie. After being told that he kills his wife, collects the insurance, and becomes governor of California, Oliver has a brainstorm - he'll get an insurance policy on his wife, and have her murdered! So he goes to the "No Fault Insurance" company, and gets a two-week policy. However, there's a condition that his wife must have a medical examination before getting the policy, so Oliver tells the insurance man that his wife must be examined "in a way that she doesn't know that she's being examined." This leads to a hilarious scene when later, the visiting doctor (played by Pat Morita) somehow manages to examine her in this way.

Oliver gets the policy, and then goes to the most disreputable bar in town to find a hit man, finding a bumbling Gene Wilder clone named Bobo. At first, Bobo is reluctant ("Taking someone's life without their permission? I can't do that!"), but then the lure of $20,000 finally wins him over. Shortly after, the insurance company calls Oliver saying they need another physical - the first doctor was found to be a fraud after they discovering he didn't know how to use a thermometer ("These things do happen," assures the insurance man.) With a currently invalid policy, Oliver races to Bobo to stop the hit, only to find that Bobo hired someone to do the job for him...who then hired someone to do the job for him...who then hired someone to do the job for him...eventually leading to a mad race by everyone involved to Las Vegas to find and stop the last hired hit man.

The madcap race in the second half of the movie obviously got some inspiration from It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, though here the direction is on meeting and interacting with really kooky characters, including an East Indian symphony conductor, a doctor at a fat farm, a bricklayer, and an Italian soldier. With these characters, and others in the movie, Dishy does a great job with these interactions with his fast-talking, half-truths and lies - anything to get what he wants! The movie also gets humor with a number of great sight gags, such as when Oliver and his companions have to wear some ludicrous "fat suits" in order to sneak into the fat farm. And there's a tip of the hat to the old "Road Runner" cartoons with the assassin (unseen except for his shoes and hands), who makes multiple attempts on the life of Oliver's wife, but with all of his attempts failing and usually backfiring into his face.

There are some problems with the movie. The second half, though funny, is undoubtedly weaker than the hilarious first half. Part of that problem comes with an extended segment at a hospital, with Oliver and his companions there for reasons not entirely clear. And the segment is simply too long to start with. And the sometimes cartoonish humor goes too far at times. One gag has Bobo being beaten up offscreen, and then appearing immediately back onscreen with white "x" bandages on his face to indicate his injuries. Also, some segments were not carefully edited enough, which may cause viewers to grab their remote control to rewind and replay what they've just seen, like I had to do several times.

Despite these problems, I laughed out loud a lot more times than most comedies I've ever seen. The screenwriter, Mickey Rose, formerly worked with Woody Allen (when he used to be funny), and Rose obviously learned a lot from his former partner. He also showed with this movie that he could be a talented gag man on his own. Though the only other comic movie that he made was the 1981 Student Bodies, which I understand has a cult following. It's too back Rose disappeared from movies, because I think with a little more work and polish, he might have been as well known as Woody Allen is today - and for more positive things than negative.

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See also: The In-Laws, Fire Sale, Let It Ride

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