Do Not Disturb

Do Not Disturb. Arcola Pictures 1965.

Before watching the movie:

This is being promoted as a romp with a wife who invents a lover to get revenge on her husband for spending more time with his secretary. Apparently it also involves travel to Europe, but I’m not clear how big a part of the movie that is. I suspect the story starts with them relocating for business reasons, and then the new secretary at the new office gets too much of the husband’s attention.

This is based on a play, so I’m expecting some really good dialogue, very long scenes, and a handful of location scenes in Europe because movies feel obligated to Open Up a play.

After watching the movie:

Mike and Janet Harper just moved to England for Mike’s job with a wool manufacturer. While Mike wanted to live in London near his office, Janet insisted on a house in Kent, which fuels the rift between them that’s been growing for the last few years as now he often stays at the company flat overnight for convenience, or if he does come home late, he arrives before his messages do. Janet’s jealousy is piqued by Mike’s gorgeous new assistant Claire, and after she jumps to some conclusions, she’s encouraged by her landlady to get herself her own lover, even if she has to make one up. Janet has no intention of doing either, but when she contracts Paul to decorate her house and he proposes going to Paris to look at a table, she may just have gotten an affair of her own.

The direction of the plot went a little differently than I expected. The “invent a lover” angle was implied to be the main action, and I thought we were going to see Janet get wound up by her landlady into a big farce of keeping the illusion going for Mike. Then Paul showed up and I thought it was going to be mostly Mike getting wound up over nothing because she already put the idea in his head that she might spite him like that. But then that passes pretty quickly too and there’s a long section of trying to make up. The “series of compromising positions” isn’t even particularly comedically pitched, and it comes off more as building to disaster than “this is already an absurd disaster, pass the popcorn”.

The scenes themselves don’t feel particularly like a play, but looking over the whole thing I can definitely feel three distinct parts. One in England, one in mostly Paris, intercut with Mike’s business trip, and one at the hotel where Mike is supposed to schmooze with big clients. The location shoots seem less forced than a lot of adapted plays I’ve seen too, though the final act becomes more contained.

What I come back to is how the second act’s momentum is so different from the first and third. The beginning and end are standard farces, but the middle feels like it’s laying pipe for an outrageous climax that doesn’t quite come. A pace can vary, but this slows down so much it feels like a different show.

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