The Notorious Landlady is a comedy-suspense melodrama somewhat akin in essence and style to Arsenic and Old Lace. Unlike its distant theatrical ancestor, however, the Fred Kohlmar production is neither sound enough as a mystery nor consistently merry enough as a comedy.
Screenplay, from a story by Margery Sharp, deals with the plight of a yankee foreign diplomat (Jack Lemmon) newly arrived from London, who becomes implicated in some confusing homicidal shenanigans involving his landlady (Kim Novak). Seems the landlady is suspected of having done in her husband, who has disappeared. In the midst of the budding Novak-Lemmon romance, the ‘dead’ hubby shows up, only to be plugged for real by his wife.
Although the mystery plot is completely contrived and doesn’t hold together, and the comedy comes only in occasional clusters and is largely manufactured on the spot by the resourceful Lemmon, the screenplay does have some bright and witty lines.
Novak’s latitude of expression remains narrow, but coupled with her sexy attitude and natural physical endowments, it gets her by in the role. Fred Astaire is adequate as Lemmon’s diplomat employer. Supporting cast, almost entirely British, is accomplished.