The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964)

Rating: C+

Dir: Arthur Lubin
Star: Don Knotts, Carole Cook, Jack Weston, Paul Frees

This 1964 film beat Mary Poppins to the punch by seven months, in mixing live-action and animation, but has largely been forgotten. Which is a shame, since it’s bizarre enough to merit viewing, in a Five Thousand Fingers of Dr. T kind of way. Knotts plays wimpy book-keeper Henry Limpet, rejected by the Navy in 1941, and obsessed, to an almost unhealthy degree, with the fish he keeps. After his wife issues a “them or me” ultimatum, he falls into the water at Coney Island and becomes a fish, albeit one still capable of speaking in English. Patriotic to a fault, when war starts, he helps out by hunting down U-boats for the Navy – which leads Ze Germans to create their own anti-Limpet weapon.

The animation may not be up to much (it was one of the last things the once-great Warner Bros. studio did before closing), and the Nazis speak in a bizarre form of Deutsch-lish, but the movie makes up for this in spades with its surrealness: witness the sequence where Limpet agonises over going to the spawning grounds, and whether it would be cheating on his wife. Frees is also great at Limpet’s crustacean sidekick, with a grand line in submarine abuse. The premiere was held 20-feet underwater in a glass-walled cinema. Perhaps it’s no surprise the film has since sunk, almost without trace. And yet…there have been rumours of a remake, directed by Mike (Beavis and Butthead) Judge. Can’t wait.