The Inspector General (1949) starring Danny Kaye, Walter Slezak, Barbara Bates, Elsa Lanchester, Gene Lockhart, Alan Hale, Walter Catlett directed by Henry Koster Movie Review

The Inspector General (1949)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Elsa Lanchester and Danny Kaye in The Inspector General

Failed its General Inspection

"The Inspector General" sounds right up my street; it's a comedy musical about mistaken identity and stars Danny Kaye. Sadly the experience certainly does not live up to expectations because it is a dull story, which is padded out and to be honest a little bit grating at times. The only good thing about it is Danny Kaye who's talent for comedy be it telling a gag, pulling a face, singing an amusing song or performing a funny dance makes it bearable. And it feels like director Henry Koster realised this because the scenes where Kaye is being funny is when "The Inspector General" is entertaining with everything else being dull and so there is an abundance of Kaye being funny as if the whole movie rested on his shoulders to make it work. But one man doesn't make a movie and as such no matter how much I enjoy Danny Kaye's performance "The Inspector General" ends up barely average.

Innocent Georgi (Danny Kaye - The Five Pennies) finds himself penniless and hungry having spoiled the scam which Yakov (Walter Slezak) ran with his travelling medicine show. But that all changes when he stumbles into a town who are in a state of panic over a surprise visit from one of the Emperor's top men. Unsure of what this top official look like they mistake Georgi for him thinking he has arrived in disguise and set about bending over backwards to make Georgi as happy as possible especially as the town's Mayor and his council of family members are all on the fiddle. But when Yakov shows up and sees what is happening decides to try and capitalize on Georgi's mistaken identity leading to The Mayor and his men trying to having him killed before their corrupt ways are discovered.

Danny Kaye and Barbara Bates in The Inspector General

"The Inspector General" is your simple tale of mistaken identity with penniless and starving Georgi being mistaken for one of the Emperor's highest officials. And because the Mayor and his family of officials are a corrupt bunch they panic when they think that Georgi is this very important man first bending over backwards to help and then trying to do away with him when they think he may uncover the corruption. The trouble is that there is almost nothing to this, as whilst we get Georgi's old friend and boss Yakov trying to capitalize on the Mayor's mistake and make money off of it, it all seems so pointless. You know that at some point the truth will be discovered and with Georgi being a very truthful sort of person he will probably come clean but it never seems to go anywhere. Maybe back at the end of the 40s the corrupt mayor and high taxes had some sort of double meaning but now it seems so plain.

Because it seems so plain that watching "The Inspector General" now feels like a series of gags which rely on Danny Kaye to make them work. From the humour of Yakov's fake medicine show to all the jokes surrounding the mistaken identity every fun line and moment of tom foolery falls to Danny Kaye. Now to be honest Kaye makes them work, be it a funny song which features facial ticks through to him being desperately hungry yet his plate kept on being removed are all funny. But whilst funny he humour also seems to lack imagination with jokes which are not that original and end up being repetitive. You have to give Kaye credit for making a sticking sword amusing even when that one gag goes on and on and on.

Part of the trouble is that because the emphasis of "The Inspector General" is on being funny that the various musicals numbers end up being forgettable. Forgettable doesn't mean they're not enjoyable as watching Danny Kaye sing and dance is always good but there is nothing which stays with you once the movie ends. So whilst watching Kaye sing a Gipsy Drinking Song is fun as is his comical performance of a song about ailments they end up being just that fun.

Maybe the problem with "The Inspector General" is down to the performances because to be honest Walter Slezak, Barbara Bates, Elsa Lanchester and Gene Lockhart are as forgetable as the songs. Maybe it's not their fault and director Henry Koster is to blame for making the movie The Danny Kaye show but because the supporting cast and characters end up weak and forgetable it becomes a one man show. And to be honest whilst Danny Kaye does a good job and I absolutely love watching him perform I would have loved for a bit more variation and assistance from the rest of the cast.

What this all boils down to is that if you watch "The Inspector General" just for some Danny Kaye entertainment you will enjoy it. But if you are watching it for more, for a fun musical about mistaken identity you will probably feel that same tinge of disappointment that it left me with as whilst not a bad movie it is a forgettable one.