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No synopsis for Off Limits.
For more about Off Limits and the Off Limits Blu-ray release, see Off Limits Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on August 21, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney, Marilyn Maxwell, Stanley Clements, Marvin Miller, John Ridgely
Director: George Marshall
» See full cast & crew
Off Limits Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, August 21, 2013
Seeing the pairing of Bob Hope and Mickey Rooney might be prone to set certain prospective audience members' teeth on edge, and I must confess to having been in that class before actually watching Off Limits (here bearing its United Kingdom title Military Policemen). I needn't have worried. What I feared would be a nonstop array of Rooney mugging to exaggerated degree, with Hope not far behind, actually is one of the most (relatively) serene outings in either of these actors' filmographies. It's also a bit of an unusual film for both of the comedians. Hope, while still parlaying his tic filled, on the make but still neurotic persona into the role of a haplessly drafted boxing manager, gives a rather deft performance here rather than simply essaying yet another version of himself. Rooney's also nicely cast against type as a dunderheaded Private whom Hope coaches into a fighting career, despite the wishes of the boy's curvaceous aunt (Marilyn Maxwell). Off Limits is not a laugh-a-thon by any stretch, but it has its fair share of gags that land, and it at least isn't beset by the often frantic machinations that attended this phase of the careers of Hope and (especially) Rooney. Co-written by Hope regulars Hal Kanter and Jack Sher, and with some charming songs by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, the team who had provided Hope and Maxwell with "Silver Bells" in The Lemon Drop Kid (a song which ironically became a hit for Hope's pretend nemesis, Bing Crosby), Off Limits isn't the greatest Hope (or Rooney) comedy of all time, but it's surprisingly affable. To use appropriate boxing parlance, it may not be a knockout, but it has a few technicals in its bag of tricks.
Wally Hogan (Bob Hope) has been tooling around the boxing trade as a trainer and manager for years without much success. That unfortunate situation hasn't put a crimp on his romantic activities, however, and as the film opens finding Wally ringside at a bout featuring his latest protégé "Bullets" Bradley (Stanley Clements), Wally is beset with a horde of women, all of whom think he is planning on marrying them should "Bullets" prevail. Two of these women end up duking it out in the audience in a mirror image of what's going on in the ring. "Bullets" does prevail, momentarily distracting Wally from the incipient danger of being chased by a bunch of frenetic females. However, joy turns almost immediately to despair when "Bullets" receives a draft notice immediately upon leaving the ring.
It soon becomes obvious that "Bullets" is actually a loose cannon, easy with his fists (he punches out two table lamps back in the hotel room after the bout), and since Wally is part owner of the fighter, his partners Vic and Babe (Marvin Miller and Richard Weil) insist that Wally himself enlist so that he can keep an eye on their cash cow. Wally, not exactly a he-man despite his evident allure to women, isn't about to go along with this plan until he opens the hotel room door and discovers a throng of very angry women who have figured out that Wally's promises aren't worth the paper they were written on (and, let's face it, they weren't written on anything).
That sets up the central premise of the film, when the Draft Board rejects "Bullets" for being mentally unbalanced, and Wally finds himself unwillingly part of the American armed forces. He's almost instantly scolded by an imperious captain (Eddie Mayehoff) who, when he isn't berating Wally, is reading books about Napoleon. Wally meanwhile has been accosted by an eager young recruit named Herbert Tuttle (Mickey Rooney), who knows who Wally is and begs him for the chance to learn how to be a better boxer. Wally isn't especially interested until he figures out that a beautiful blonde named Connie (Marilyn Maxwell), who is also aboard the train transporting the troops to their destination, is Herbert's aunt.
Both Wally and Herbert end up as military policemen, with the captain scowling in the background, and the middle section of the film plays somewhat like a precursor to Sgt. Bilko or McHale's Navy, with an on the make grunt (Hope) trying to finagle his way out of KP or digging trenches. Rooney's Herbert is like a sidekick in most of this section, though the focus slowly turns more toward him when his boxing dreams begin to become something more of a reality.
The film relies a bit more on physical comedy than some of Hope's other outings. There are a number of scenes that find Hope getting tossed about and in one scene he actually hides out in a punching bag, which is of course fodder for more pummeling. Rather interestingly, Rooney, who during this period was more apt than Hope to engage in physical shtick, is surprisingly restrained, playing everything relatively straight.
There's nothing even slightly surprising about Off Limits, but it manages to coast along on the charisma of its star trio, as well as colorful supporting turns by the likes of Mayehoff. The film rarely has the laugh out loud elements of the best Hope fare, but it's generally amiable and never less than enjoyable. The boxing sequences are very well staged, and there are a number of fun cameos along the way, including a nice little bit by erstwhile champ Jack Dempsey as a referee who isn't smart enough to remember how to count to ten.
Off Limits Blu-ray, Video Quality
Off Limits is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.34:1. Since this release bears the film's UK title, I almost wonder if this was sourced off of foreign elements which were sequestered away and rarely if ever used, for this is certainly one of the best looking black and white catalog releases of this vintage we've seen from Olive. There's virtually no damage of any import to report, but even better, aside from some very minor flicker which crops up occasionally, there's a finely detailed image here, with excellent contrast and very nicely modulated gray scale. Contrast is also consistent and very strong. As is the standard operating procedure with these Olive releases, no digital tweaking appears to have been done to this release. The film does have several uses of rear projection, and those understandably look quite soft and grainy.
Off Limits Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Similarly, Off Limits' lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix is quite nice sounding, without much hiss in evidence and very good fidelity supporting both the dialogue and the charming songs by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston. Things are a bit sonically manic at times at various times during the film, but the track presents everything in a nicely balanced and well prioritized way.
Off Limits Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements are offered on this Blu-ray disc.
Off Limits Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I've always considered Mickey Rooney somewhat more of an acquired taste than Bob Hope. Hope's smart=alecky wisecracks just seem to more easily resonate with a broad audience, while Rooney, especially in the fifties, at times seemed desperate to maintain some semblance of his former superstardom, resulting in some overly aggressive attempts at comedy. But both of these performers are quite winning in Off Limits. The film has some gentle gags and some surprisingly good tunes, and if it's not the hysterically funny enterprise that some other Hope vehicles are, it's certainly not as lackluster as some of the comedian's sixties efforts were. This Olive Blu-ray features really nice looking video and sound audio and comes Recommended.
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