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The Absent Minded Professor

Absent Minded Professor, The (1961) Movie Poster
  •  USA  •    •  92m  •    •  Directed by: Robert Stevenson.  •  Starring: Fred MacMurray, Nancy Olson, Keenan Wynn, Tommy Kirk, Leon Ames, Elliott Reid, Edward Andrews, David Lewis, Jack Mullaney, Belle Montrose, Wally Brown, Wally Boag, Don Ross.  •  Music by: George Bruns.
     A bumbling professor accidently invents flying rubber, or "Flubber", an incredible material that gains energy every time it strikes a hard surface. It allows for the invention of shoes that can allow jumps of amazing heights and enables a modified Model-T to fly. Unfortunately, no one is interested in the material except for Alonzo Hawk, a corrupt businessman who wants to steal the material for himself.

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Review:

Image from: Absent Minded Professor, The (1961)
Image from: Absent Minded Professor, The (1961)
Image from: Absent Minded Professor, The (1961)
Image from: Absent Minded Professor, The (1961)
Image from: Absent Minded Professor, The (1961)
Image from: Absent Minded Professor, The (1961)
Image from: Absent Minded Professor, The (1961)
Image from: Absent Minded Professor, The (1961)
Such a good idea was this deemed to be that Paramount followed it with Jerry Lewis in "The Nutty Professor" two years later. This being a Disney production, we know what to expect, and we certainly get it. Cheerful, brainless nonsense is the order of the day, with generous helpings of good old American domestic values.

Medfield College is a pleasant small-town campus peopled with pleasant clean-cut students and staff, and conspicuous among the latter is Ned Brainard, the Absent-Minded Professor. He is so engrossed in his scientific experiments that he forgets to show up at his own wedding - not once, but three times. The lame stereotypes come thick and fast as the barmy prof blows up his own lab. Just as nutty scientists are supposed to do, he builds a labyrinth of bubbling tubes and flasks in his own garage - and this, too, blows up.

The eccentric professor (played solidly and reliably by Fred MacMurray) discovers a marvellous anti-gravity gunge which he christens flying rubber, or 'flubber'. He fits his Model T Ford with 'the goo that flew'. Naturally, being an absent-minded professor, he is still driving a Model T in 1961. And naturally, he is able to fly his flubber-enhanced car around the airspace of Medfield town. However, all is not well. Betsy, his long-suffering fiancee, has grown tired of being stood up at the altar, and has started dating the nerdy Professor Shelby Ashton.

Medfield College is in difficulties. Funds are low, and Alonzo P. Hawk, the rapacious local entrepreneur, is seeking to develop the campus as a housing estate. Keenan Wynne plays the villain Hawk with great relish. His son Biff has been excluded from the College basketball team because of bad grades (having been flunked in chemistry class by Prof Brainard), and without this star player, the Medfield team is being trounced by Rutland College at half-time. The eccentric professor saves the day by ironing flubber onto the soles of the Medfield players' gym shoes, and the home team bounces to victory.

The scheming Alonzo Hawk steals the professor's flying car and replaces it with an ordinary Model T. Meanwhile, Betsy is going to the college dance with Prof Ashton. There is a genuinely funny scene in which Brainard paints flubber onto his own shoes and pings around the dance hall. Disappointment follows when the Pentagon top brass come to see the new invention, but the 'dud' car won't fly. All is not lost - at least Brainard gets his girl back, because Betsy feels sorry for the bewildered genius and promises to help him recover his flubbermobile.

The production is not exactly a lavish one. Shot in monochrome using simple sets, the film relies throughout on 'bouncing' jokes, as various characters discover the properties of gravity-defying flubber. The special effects are all fairly crude attempts to make people bounce and cars fly, using wires for lift and undercranking the camera. The written gags are weak, but the slapstick humour has a certain appeal.

The plot's loose ends are neatly (and predictably) tied up, save that the Hawk-takes-over-the-campus theme is dropped without explanation. Brainard gets his car, Hawk is rescued from an uncontrollable flubber-bounce when he is tackled by the college football team, and the absent-minded professor flies his car to Washington to place his invention at Uncle Sam's disposal.

Mildly enjoyable tosh as it is, the film somehow lacks gusto. The script is pedestrian and MacMurray, though likeable and photogenic, lacks the brio of Jerry Lewis.


Review by Michael Coy from the Internet Movie Database.