Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Warner Archive Wednesday ~ The Honeymoon Machine (1961)

Some people function better when things get hot. – Steve McQueen at Lt. Ferguson

The Honeymoon Machine (1961) stars Steve McQueen  as Lt. Ferguson (Fergie). On board a Navy ship is Ferguson and Jason Eldridge (Jim Hutton), a scientist who has developed a computer sophisticated enough to predetermine where a missile is going to land. Their first test run, Operation Honeymoon Machine, proves to be a success. In our digital age, looking back at a big clunky computer called MACS is amusing at best.

When the ship docks in Venice, Italy, Ferguson (McQueen), a big gambler, comes up with a plan to use MACS to predict where the ball of a roulette wheel will land. If Ferguson, Jason and their two buddies can manage it, they’ll make a killing at the local casino's roulette table.

Everything seems to be going according to plan until Ferguson meets Admiral Fitch’s (Dean Jagger)  daughter Julie (Brigid Bazlen) and Jason (Jim Hutton) reunites with his old flame Pam (Paula Prentiss) . Both ladies have marriage on their mind and Ferguson and Jason are even more eager to win a boatload of money in order to secure a future with both dames. However, Julie’s father, the Admiral, witnesses morse code signals being sent from the docked ship to their hotel. What he doesn’t realize is that a sailor is sending MACS predictions for the roulette wheel. The Admiral misinterprets this as inside information about a potential Russian invasion. Can Ferguson and Jason pull off Operation Honeymoon Machine with a nosy and paranoid Admiral snooping around?

The movie's plot is really interesting but poorly executed. The Honeymoon Machine suffers from the common problem of 1960s comedies that try to be too zany and whacky at the expense of real humor. Steve McQueen had great range and I believe he could do humor well. He did the best he could with such a limited role. Also, the female characters are so weak. They both only seem to be concerned with marriage. While Pam is adorably goofy, Julie is just plain boring.

While this film is just plain ridiculous, I think there are a few reasons for the 1960s film fan to watch it.

Steve McQueen playing an atypical fun role is very refreshing to watch.

Yeah so I'm posting a picture of Steve McQueen half-naked. So what? Take that Google Search!

Fans of Where the Boys Are (1960) will recognize Jim Hutton (actor Timothy Hutton’s father) and Paula Prentiss. According to IMDB, Hutton and Prentiss were paired up romantically in four films because their height suited each other. Hutton was 6’ 5” and Prentiss is 5’ 10”.

If you’ve seen King of Kings (1961), you’ll recognize Brigid Bazlen (Julie) who played Salome in that film:

Those of you who are big Steve McQueen fans may recognize Jack Weston  who was also in The Cincinatti Kid (1965) and Thomas Crown Affair (1968) . Weston plays a drunk Signalman in the film and rivals Pam (Paula Prentiss) as the funniest character in the film.

1960s Hollywood seemed to have a love affair with Italy and The Honeymoon Machine, being set in Venice, is a perfect example of that. Fans of ‘60s films will love the wardrobe, the set design, the fancy casino and gorgeous Venice as a backdrop.

While The Honeymoon Machine (1961) is more palatable than really crazy and just plain boring films from the decade, such as  Sex and the Single Girl (1964) or Lord Love a Duck (1966) , it should be reserved for those 1960s fans who can appreciate the decade’s kooky films. And because I love kooky films, I think this one may deserve a future viewing so I can appreciate it more.

Useless and Morbid trivia bit: All of the stars of this film, except for Paula Prentiss, have passed away. In my online research I discovered that Brigid Balzen, Jim Hutton and Steve McQueen all succumbed to cancer at relatively young ages: 44, 45 and 50 respectively.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Movies selected are rented from Classicflix or purchased from Warner Archive, Classicflix or TCM. This series is not sponsored by Warner Archive.

Isn't Paula Prentiss delightful?


  1. much as i love Steve McQueen, he cant save that film for me. yes its amusing at times but seems to go nowhere, sort of dead in the water and dates badly. i agree with you McQueen was very adept at humor but in this film it seems forced. he does give the film some energy tho, which it certainly needed. how sad that cancer took all those talented people so young :(

    1. Hey Paulie - Yeah it's a tough gig. I started watching it a second time and it was a bit better but you are right about it dating badly and being dead in the water. It could have worked if they had focused on the characters and plot more so than on the whackiness and kookiness! Anyways, thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hi Raquelle,

    Enjoyed your review! I think I enjoyed it more than you did, although you're right, it's really not all that hot of a plot (grin). I remember thinking it was silly, but I had a good time anyway -- Steve McQueen was so adorable! LOL. And the person who really made it for me was Paula Prentiss. She was such an elegant klutz. There's something about her personality which is very engaging. Glad you got to check it out, enjoyed your impressions and you do such nice screen captures too. :)

    Looking forward to your next Warner Archive Wednesday!

    Best wishes,

  3. Another really interesting-looking title, Raquelle - thanks for the review! I like all those actors. Agreed on Paula Prentiss...she's really fun in the Howard Hawks comedy MAN'S FAVORITE SPORT. Love these 60s goofy comedies. The Italian setting doesn't hurt either. Looks like Warner Archives is going to see more of my money soon...

    Jeff Flugel


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