Lucille Ball was a regular fixture on TV from 1951 to 1974. Her broadcasting dynasty included three different sitcoms (I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show and Heres Lucy) with her playing a crazy redhead named Lucy. After wrapping up her last series, she made several hour-long specials featuring major stars. The Lucille Ball Specials brings together two productions that aired in 1975. Lucy Gets Lucky is the further continuing adventures of her Lucy persona when she hooks up with Dean Martin. Three for Two has her and Jackie Gleason (The Honeymooners) portraying three different couples.
Lucy Gets Lucky lets the madcap redhead loose on Dean Martin in Sin City. This is kind of like I Love Lucy when the gang went to Hollywood except she no longer has Desi to restrain her. She arrives at the old MGM Grand Hotel with a plan to see his show. Since theres no single tickets, shes reserved a table for eight in the showroom that she cant completely afford. She cancels the other seven seats with creative excuses for the absences of her seven dinner guests. The hotel employee (Gino Conforti) simplifies the task by canceling the entire table. This makes zero sense. The show is sold out. Why cant Lucy scalp other seven seats to other Dino fanatics?
Lucy cant miss seeing Dino in Vegas. Shes come too far to give up. Although when she meets Dino in a coffee shop, she wont beg for a ticket. Shes got dignity. Turns out Dino is having a special late night show for hotel employees. What a swell guy. This inspires Lucy to get a job at the casino. Jackie Coogan (Addams Familys Uncle Fester) is the manager that hires her in the name of affirmative action. As expected, Lucy is a disaster in several positions. While parking cars, she drives a VW Bug down the stairs. She doesnt get a Keno card from Bruce Gordon (The Untouchables Frank Nitti) to the teller on time. Gordon nails the big prize and wants his cash. Who bails her out of these moments? Dino! The end of the show gives us the payoff of footage of him performing “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime” on the stage.
The humor is really cornball. The jokes play straight to the rubes wearing the double-knit polyester pants that zombie walk past the slot machines. While it might sound blasphemous, this special really needs a laughtrack. This isnt nearly as sophisticated as when Lucy was stalking John Wayne on I Love Lucy. Dinos charm overcomes the outlandish ending. The special was shot on location in Las Vegas and not recreated on a Hollywood studio. Getting glimpses of the old MGM Grand and Deans stage show makes this a more pleasurable experience than the script allows.
Three for Two is a series of three one act plays with Lucy and Jackie Gleason as various couples. This is the answer to “what would it be like if Lucy married Ralph Kramden?” “Herb and Sally” introduces us to a middle-aged couple vacationing in Rome. She wants a romantic evening. He wants room service. She wants a little attention from her sleepy husband. Hes having none of it. She hurts him by attacking his horrible impersonation of Peter Lorre. Gino Conforti plays the room service waiter who sparks the tension into a nasty spat. Their meltdown fight plays into Jackies power. Hes going to send her to the moon with a pizza powered punch. “Fred and Rita” has Lucy arrive at a dimly lit bar where married couples meet for torrid affairs. Jackie is the husband of Lucys best friend. Is this a hint that she swung with Fred Mertz? The duo question their adulterous affair. They plot expanding their flings to longer than 20 minutes. She wants a weekend, but their schedules dont work out. “Mike and Pauline” charts the demise of a familys New Years Eve Party. Lucy is upset when the kids have other plans than being with them. Jackie isnt so traumatized by this change, but has to play along for the sake of his wife. Ultimately this 50-minute special plays like a lost episode of Love American Style.
The Lucille Ball Specials is perfect for the fan who enjoys Lucy, Dino and Jackie. Dean gets to play up his performer persona of the good-natured drunk. Although there cant be that much booze in Las Vegas to justify the ending. How thick are his beer goggles? Jackie gets to stretch with Lucy. The affair sketch is the best of the trio since it sounds like what Jackie would do. These two specials allow the trio a little more fun time on the screen in what would be the autumn of their careers.
The video is 1.33:1 Full Frame. The transfer for “Lucky Gets Lucky” is the better of the two. Youll get a good sense of the floor of a casino in 1975. Its a really tacky carpet. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. Dino sounds good in the mix. Both specials have English subtitles.
Art Linklaters House Party (10:51) is a clip from a 1965 show. Lucy does a comic bit performing sound effects for a radio show.
â€¨Lets Talk to Lucy Episode #5 (11:24) has her interview Dean Martin in 1964. Shes better than Larry King. The producers have done a fine job illustrating the talk with images and clips involving her chat with Dino.
Lets Talk to Lucy Episode #195 (9:14) is another chat with Dean Martin from 1965.
Working with Lucy (14:41) is an interview with Gino Conforti. The actor gives a fine recounting of his time on the set with her. He started on an episode of Heres Lucy as a burglar and stole his way into several of her later projects.
Outtakes & Bloopers (5:42) lets us see Dino at work. We get more raw footage of him on stage at the MGM Grand.
Fans of Lucy, Dino and Jackie should rejoice at the release of these two rarely seen specials. Both specials have their charms with Dino singing and Jackie shouting. Lucy gets plenty of comic moments even if quite few of them fall rather flat. The Lucille Ball Specials reminds us that even when her time as a sitcom queen ended, she still knew how to put on a show.
MPI Home Video presents A Double Feature Starring Lucille Ball. Starring: Lucille Ball, Dean Martin and Jackie Gleason. Running time: 102 minutes. Released on DVD: June 30, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Dean Martin, I Love Lucy, Las Vegas, Lucille Ball