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Billy Wilder's insurance-scam comedy, written with partner I.A.L. Diamond, is one of the legendary filmmaker's surlier efforts. Were it not for the star-making performance of Walter Matthau (which won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), it might not have registered so strongly with audiences. Shot in a grimy black and white, the story begins as CBS cameraman Harry Hinkle (Jack Lemmon) is injured on the sidelines of a football game when Cleveland Browns star Boom Boom Jackson (Ron Rich) accidentally barrels into him. Hinkle's all right, but his ambulance-chasing brother-in-law William Gingrich (Matthau), also known as "Whiplash Willie," has a lawsuit filed before Hinkle even wakes up at the hospital. Hinkle is reluctant to join in on the scheme, which involves staying in a wheelchair, until he realizes it may bring his ex-wife (Judi West) back, even though her eyes practically flash dollar signs at the thought of his case's settlement potential. Working on Hinkle's conscience, however, is a burgeoning friendship with Jackson, who feels horrible about the incident. Not as sure-footed or as brazenly funny as many other Wilder efforts, the film nevertheless boasts a comic turn by Matthau that is deliciously conniving and endlessly inventive.

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