If a viewer can look at How to Murder Your Wife as something from a time capsule, a piece that captures a certain societal attitude circa 1965, he or she will likely have an easier time enjoying it. The basic premise will still likely offend some, but if they can get past that and enjoy the skill that has gone into making Murder, they may start laughing in spite of themselves. In a way, it's too bad the filmmakers didn't go further, making a film that was really darkly comic and edgy in an over-the-top manner. But by making this a "tired businessman" comedy, they dilute the impact while elevating the potential to pointlessly offend. Still, George Axelrod's script has some pithy moments, and Richard Quine directs with precision, although both lose track of things toward the end, when Murder just gets to be a little too much. Fortunately, Jack Lemmon is on hand and is in top farceur mode, making zircon-level humor shine and glisten like diamonds, and providing enough personal charm to keep the entire enterprise aloft all by his lonesome. That he doesn't have to do so, thanks to an excellent supporting cast, is a bonus. Virna Lisi is a sexy delight, Terry-Thomas makes disapproval into a comic art form, and Eddie Mayehoff and Claire Trevor are a perfect duo. Add in Richard Sylbert's period bachelor accoutrements, Harry Stradling's glossy photography, and Neal Hefti's groovy score, and the result is a movie that manages to be enjoyable in spite of itself.
by Craig Butler review