‘Salt & Pepper’ / ‘One More Time’ Double Feature Reviewed

by Rachel Bellwoar

Before he directed the Lethal Weapon movies, Richard Donner directed Salt & Pepper, a buddy comedy starring Rat Pack members, Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford. Davis is Salt. Lawford is Pepper, and together they would reprise the roles two years later in One More Time (directed by Jerry Lewis). Having packaged the films together as a double feature, here’s how Kino Lorber’s release sizes up.

Salt & Pepper (1968)

Comedy is all about timing, which is why Salt & Pepper gets off to such a great start with the delay between Salt seeing a dead guy in his closet and not reacting to it until much later on stage. It would’ve been so easy to let Salt crack sooner, but then there wouldn’t any be time to wonder if Salt could’ve missed the corpse (which, of course, he does when the corpse isn’t there when he goes back to look for it).

One corpse can be imagined. Two is bad for business and when another victim turns up at the Salt and Pepper Club, Inspector Crabbe (Michael Bates) is eager to throw the book at Salt and Pepper. Luckily, Crabbe is as incompetent as he is stuffy (think Basil Fawlty, if Fawlty Towers had existed when this film was released), but Salt and Pepper aren’t out of dodge yet. The newest victim, Mai Ling (Jeanne Roland), was a spy and somehow things escalate from there until Salt and Pepper are trying to stop a nuclear missile from being launched.

The stakes may be high, but Salt & Pepper overstays its welcome. On the plus side, Lawford makes a good straight man, and the insistence on having Salt and Pepper’s wardrobes clash shows dedication (Pepper is always dressed in suave suits, while Davis’ attire is hip and colorful).

The other plus: Salt and Pepper aren’t heroes, and the film doesn’t turn them into heroes either, as seen by their reluctance to get involved and their willingness to tamper with evidence to protect wealthy, public figures.

Con: As aware as Salt and Pepper is about race, at some point Mai Ling stops having a name and becomes “Chinese call-girl.” There are also some unnecessary homophobic digs and the usual stereotypes when it comes to disfigured villains.

Best Scene: The car chase in Salt’s modified, yellow car. Michael Pertwee (brother of Doctor Who’s Jon Pertwee) wrote the screenplays for both Salt and Pepper and One More Time, which makes it feels serendipitous that Salt’s car resembles what would become the Doctor’s beloved vehicle, Bessie.

One More Time (1970)

Every sequel needs a reveal. One More Time’s is that Pepper has a twin brother, Sydney (also played by Lawford), who disapproves of Pepper’s lifestyle. He’s willing to help Salt and Pepper out of a jam, though, if they agree to leave the country. Unfortunately (for him) he gets murdered first, but Pepper decides to pass himself off as his brother so he can inherit all of Sydney’s money. The contrivance that doesn’t make sense, though, is that Pepper decides he can’t tell Salt the truth, which means Salt goes on thinking his best friend is dead.

One More Time isn’t funny and doesn’t work as a comedy, but it does give Davis the chance to show off his serious, dramatic acting chops. It also pays honor to Salt and Pepper’s friendship by acknowledging the grief Salt experiences.

Lawford, on the other hand, doesn’t stretch himself to make the twin brothers distinctive. It’s all superficial. One brother has a moustache and an accent, the other doesn’t. It takes all of the air out of his switching back and forth. The twins are never in the same frame either (at least not without the help of a double for the back of Lawford’s head). Horror fans should be on the lookout for two significant, if random, cameos.

Salt and Pepper / One More Time Double Feature is available on Blu-Ray now from Kino Lorber. As a bonus feature, Kino Lorber has included the Trailers in Hell commentary for the trailer of Salt and Pepper, with screenwriter, Larry Karaszewski, discussing the film.

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