For, Jan. 24, 2014

In this day and age of manufacture-on-demand DVD-R releases, it's surprising to see Paramount team up with CBS Movies for general DVD releases of vintage titles.

CBS produced made-for-TV movies, of course (and has recently released "Night Chase," "Dead Man's Island" and others), but also theatrical films in the 1970s, such as "The April Fools (1969), starring Jack Lemmon and Catherine Deneuve, and its release Tuesday (Jan. 28) marks the film's DVD debut. (Two other films being released in tandem are "The War Between Men and Women," also with Lemmon, and Dustin Hoffman's "Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?")

Lemmon plays middle-aged everyman Howard Brubaker, an office drone working in Manhattan for a hedonistic boss (Peter Lawford) he's never met. When Howard receives a promotion he's told to go to the boss' uptown loft, where he finds a party in progress with a slew of eccentric artists, high-rollers and other "pretty people."

That his employer is married to the impossibly beautiful Catherine (Deneuve) doesn't seem to hinder his extra-marital exploits, and when she walks out of the party she bumps into Howard, who is also escaping.

Howard is also in an unhappy marriage to self-absorbed social-climber Phyllis (Sally Kellerman). And after spending the night with Catherine — a platonic night of self-awakening — Howard decides to abandon his miserable life and fly with her to Paris. Just like that.

But, of course, things never go just like that.

There are some funny sequences and Lemmon is really in his element, the down-to-earth schlub whose discomfort out of his element leads to amusing sight gags. Deneuve is miscast but certainly easy on the eyes. Kellerman is also good, as is Lawford, and it's a real treat to see still-charming Myrna Loy and Charles Boyer as an eccentric older couple. But Jack Weston and Harvey Korman as a pair of drunks are over the top and ill-suited to the proceedings.

Still, "The April Fools" remains an enjoyable period piece that will work as a history lesson for younger audiences and act as nostalgia to us oldsters who remember, with some chagrin, the gaudy outfits, the big hair and the pretentious atmosphere of the decade of decadence.