Unless you’re a huge fan of The Dick Van Dyke Show, the name Morey Amsterdam might not ring a bell. The late Jewish comedian will probably always be best remembered (when he is remembered, that is) as the energetic “human joke machine” on Van Dyke’s show, which also featured funny people Rose Marie and Richard Deacon in supporting roles — and was produced by Danny Thomas. It should be pointed out, however, that Amsterdam’s ability to pull a quip out of his hat preceded him in the world of comedy; an ability that earned him frequent work writing jokes for movies and television shows.
A few months before The Dick Van Dyke Show broadcast is final episode, Morey co-wrote, co-produced, and starred in an abysmally tepid spoof of the popular spy genre that was piquing at the time: some thing called Don’t Worry, We’ll Think of a Title, and that featured many of his comedic colleagues from The Dick Van Dyke Show and beyond.
Now, if the name alone doesn’t tell you a bit about the amount of care that was put into the making of this low-budget black-and-white horror, the tiny crumbs of a plot might. Morey plays a wise-cracking short order cook named Charlie Yuckapuck (!), who is the dead ringer for a missing Russian cosmonaut who has reportedly defected to the US. The film starts with Charlie icing a cake, only to have the frosting bag suddenly jam as his boss (Richard Deacon) steps in front of him.
Now, if you’ve ever only heard of the Three Stooges, Abbott & Costello, Laurel & Hardy, or of vaudeville in general, you should damn well know what happens next. And just about every other gag in this movie is as old and tired as that one, with some being far worse — and stretched out to the point of nauseam.
So anyway, shortly before Charlie and waitress Annie (Rose Marie) are fired for their accident-prone antics, a shady lawyer (a cameo appearance by none other than the Three Stooges’ Moe Howard himself) arrives to inform their other co-worker Magda (January Jones — no, not that January Jones: this one couldn‘t act her way out of a wet paper bag) that her uncle has passed away and left her a book store near Updike University.
Charlie and Annie then join Magda (my God, this girl is a terrible actress!) to help her run the store: a shoppe wherein one wacky comedian pops in after another to make a cameo and drop a quip — with names like Danny Thomas, Carl Reiner (who directed many a The Dick Van Dyke Show episode), Steve Allen, and Milton Berle. Needless to say, these brief moments are major highlights.
There are spies everywhere in the book store (where most of the remaining movie takes place); from baddies who serve a fictional Russian-like agency called the “KEB” — all of whom mistake Charlie for the missing cosmonaut — and the covert US Government good guys who are there to protect him from harm. Unfortunately, said good guys neglect to prevent the audience from the cringe-worthy assault of worn-out comedy routines that had been done to death at least twenty years before.
Former vaudeville performers Joey Adams, Andy Albin, Henry Corden, and Tim Herbert also cos-star; Peggy Mondo shows up in a scene or two; and Carmen Phillips plays a female KEB spy with a questionable sense of fashion. Irene Ryan (reprising her role from The Beverly Hillbillies, Joe Ploski, Forrest Tucker, Percy Helton, and Cliff Arquette also enter and sign in for cameo appearances. And, if you look closely (or care), you can spot doomed Rebel Without a Cause actor Nick Adams briefly as a KEB head — though he never utters a word.
Some people have all but accused Morey Amsterdam for bringing about the death of vaudeville by making Don’t Worry, We’ll Think of a Title. They might not be wrong, either. Sure, the whole “spoofing spy movies” was nothing new in 1966 — what with Get Smart airing at the time — but all of the humor present in this particular project is as flat as a glass of club soda that has been left out in the sun for several days.
And yet — and this is probably because I’m a cinemasochist — there’s something about the film’s sheer ludicrousness that made it enjoyable for me. I laughed. Quite often, in fact. It’s so bad, it’s funny — for all the wrong reasons, that is. Maybe Don’t Worry, We’ll Think of a Title just needed to simmer for a few decades to finally achieve a state of droll instead of being dull. Is it possible Don’t Worry, We’ll Think of a Title may finally reach “cult” status, especially now that MGM has released it as part of their Limited Edition Collection?
Possible, yes. Likely, no. It’s still a terrible movie — one that makes even the worst Curly-Joe DeRita-era Three Stooges effort (cartoons included) golden by comparison. Of course, Don’t Worry, We’ll Think of a Title is worthy of a little bullion, too: in the form a Golden Turkey Award.
But hey, I actually kinda enjoyed this disaster, taking great pleasure at the amount of pain it threw in my direction. And now, thanks to MGM’s Manufactured-on-Demand release, you can judge this how this famed gobbler of infamy fares for yourself. The movie is presented in a decent (though rather noisy) 1.66:1 transfer that has been culled from the best vault materials available.
In short: Don’t Worry, We’ll Think of a Title is recommended mainly for curiosity seekers and fellow cinemasochists.