Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Honey Pot" Boils Over With Wit and Violence

Cleveland Press July 1, 1967

It starts as a comedy, turns into a murder mystery and at times sounds like a morality play. But the dialog is bright and brittle in "The Honey Pot," one of the most sophisticated comedies to hit the screen.

Writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz has found his inspiration in Ben Jonson's "Volpone," a 17th Century play about a wealthy miser who deceives three old friends into giving him expensive gifts, making them think he is about to die and will name one of them in his will.

REX HARRISON is Cecil Fox (Fox is English for Volpone), a wealthy eccentric living in luxury in a Venetian palazzo. He is a self-indulgent man, one committed to pleasure.

He hires a sometimes actor (Cliff Robertson) to stage-manage a joke he wishes to play on three ex-mistresses -- a movie star (Edie Adams), a princess (Capucine) and a wealthy Texan (Susan Hayward).

The three quickly arrive, with the hypochondriac Texan accompanied by a nurse (Maggie Smith). All three are ready to give Fox gifts or anything else he wants to assure being named in his will.

THEN ONE OF the three is murdered and Mankiewicz abandons the l7th Century script to turn his movie into a first class puzzler. Several characters are implicated and secret doors and hidden staircases come into play to add to the aura of mystery.

The conclusion has more than one twist to it as the writer keeps the surprises coming even after the crime is solved.

As a writer Mankiewicz has studded his script with witty lines and sharp epigrams. But in directing his own screenplay it seems he has been unwilling to trim a single precious word. The result is a rather talky first half.

HIS DIRECTION does not make the best use of the film's locale, Venice, but keeps the scene indoors for long stretches and overuses closeups.

The soundtrack is one that fairly sparkles with captivating conversation and Rex Harrison is the perfect actor to be involved in it. He relishes his lines, savoring them and delivering them with a style that is all his own.

Maggie Smith is ideal as the soft-spoken nurse and she and Harrison have a scene together that is superb. Edie Adams is perfectly cast as the brassy actress. Susan Hayward does the Texan bit with a corn pone and hominy grits accent. Capucine is emotionless and is starting to look like a fading beauty.