Overlooked Movies No.3
‘Who’s Minding The Mint?’ was released in 1967, following in the wake of ‘It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’, during an efflorescence of astonishingly creative films that appeared over roughly a three year period at the end of the sixties. It was a comedy heist movie with no intention other than to entertain well, but it was based on a premise that spirals into increasingly surreal turns of events, while always allowing you to understand why it’s happening. The movie now has ‘lost’ cult status, although for some weird reason I own a copy.
In such films, plotting is everything, but here the characters are informed with smart casting. Jim Hutton works at the treasury, where he’s one of the most trusted loyal employees – a real straight arrow, to the point where the guards fail to check his bags as he leaves. They should do, because due to a mix-up Jim accidentally walks out with several thousand dollars one night and feeds it down the garburator. Realising what he’s done, he can’t simply own up because his boss is looking for an excuse to fire him. So instead, he plots to break into his own firm, print off the replacement money before Friday’s plate-change, and no-one will be any the wiser.
To do this he needs help but doesn’t know any professionals. So he enlists the aid of a deaf safecracker, a getaway driver in an incredibly loud ice cream truck, his innocent co-worker Dorothy Provine, grasping Milton Berle, who happens to turn up for the robbery in fancy dress, a sewer worker who can only find a funfair carnival boat to escape in, and a conspirator who’s brought with him a very pregnant beagle. In order to pay for everyone’s services Jim agrees to print off just a few more notes, and as greed starts to grip everyone, those few notes turn to thousands…
A number of films were made in this style, including ‘The Great Race’, ‘$’ and ‘Rat Race’, but it’s hard to get the balance exactly right. This works beautifully because the director, Hollywood actor Howard Morris, understands its mechanism; you feel for the innocent protagonist because he’s no longer in control of the situation he created, and you badly want him to win. However, the film was made at a time when felons – even when they were acting for the right reason – were not allowed to get away with their crimes. It’s still very funny today. Below, a Dell comic that was printed as a tie-in.