One of the last Savoy Pictures releases to limp to the screen, "Getting Away With Murder" is a distasteful affair that should embarrass all concerned. A lighthearted comedy about the Holocaust and an accused Nazi war criminal, it opened with little advance word and no advance screenings. That strategy was the one smart move Savoy made concerning this film, since this one is D.O.A.

One of the last Savoy Pictures releases to limp to the screen, “Getting Away With Murder” is a distasteful affair that should embarrass all concerned. A lighthearted comedy about the Holocaust and an accused Nazi war criminal, it opened with little advance word and no advance screenings. That strategy was the one smart move Savoy made concerning this film, since this one is D.O.A.

Dan Aykroyd toplines as Jack Lambert, a college ethics professor who lives next door to Max Mueller (Jack Lemmon with a bad German accent). Mueller is accused of being Karl Luger, a death camp commandant nicknamed the Beast of Berkau. Enraged that Mueller is going to be able to flee the country without paying for his crimes, Lambert poisons him.

Hilarity supposedly ensues when evidence emerges that Mueller is innocent. Lambert repents by marrying Mueller’s daughter, played by a stiff Lily Tomlin. Another twist makes us think Mueller may have been guilty after all. It’s not exactly a laugh riot. This is a movie that uses Holocaust denial as a comic plot point (Lambert picks a fight with two Neanderthals who insist the death camps never existed) and manages to use the word “Jew” exactly once. Mueller can be heard muttering darkly about “Zionists,” however.

Aykroyd’s bumbling Lambert looks like he should be in another film, while Lemmon and Tomlin may have hit career lows as the German father and daughter. Of the principals, only Bonnie Hunt, as Aykroyd’s cast-off girlfriend, comes off unscathed, mostly because she has little to do with the tasteless plot.

The film is a mistake from start to finish. Writer-director Harvey Miller’s idea of satire is to show CNN reporting that 75% of the public backs Mueller’s death, or to have the talking heads of “The McLaughlin Group” argue over the case. In the latter instance, only “McLaughlin” regular Jack Germond escapes criticism, largely because he’s the only one who avoided appearing in this travesty.

While production values are adequate, John Debney’s score should be singled out for adding insult to injury. His bouncy, sweet music would be more appropriate for a sitcomish pic like “Father of the Bride” than for the black comedy this one pretends to be. Toronto locations doubling for Boston work — so long as the viewer knows nothing at all about the geography of the city.

Incredibly, the film acknowledges the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem. A film like “Getting Away With Murder” will undoubtedly make those institutions think twice before offering such assistance to filmmakers in the future.

Getting Away with Murder

Production

Distributors of a Price Entertainment/Parkway production. Produced by Frank Price, Penny Marshall. Executive producers, Elliot Abbott, Frederic W. Brost. Directed, written by Harvey Miller.

Crew

Camera, (Technicolor) Frank Tidy; editor, Richard Nord; music, John Debney; production design, John Jay Moore; art direction, Jeff Ginn; costume design, Judy Gellman; sound (Dolby), Douglas Ganton, David Lee; associate producer, Gail Sicilia; assistant director, Tony Lucibello; casting, Sheila Jaffe, Georgiane Walken. Reviewed at Sony Copley Place, Boston, April 12, 1996. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 92 min.

With

Jack Lambert - Dan Aykroyd
Inga Mueller - Lily Tomlin
Max Mueller/Karl Luger - Jack Lemmon
Gail Holland - Bonnie Hunt
Marty Lambert - Brian Kerwin
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