Who's Minding the Mint? is a comedy movie from 1967 with elements of a caper film. Howard Morris directed an ensemble cast that included Jim Hutton, Dorothy Provine, Walter Brennan and Milton Berle. The screenplay, concerning a group of individuals who break into a Treasury building to print money, was written by R.S. Allen and Harvey Bullock. The movie was produced by Norman Maurer for Columbia Pictures.
The film uses the term "mint" colloquially, as paper currency is actually produced by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing whereas only coins are produced by the U.S. Mint. Both agencies are headquartered in Washington, D.C., and both are overseen by the US Treasury. The term "mint" as a verb can be applied to both coins as well as paper currency.
Harry Lucas (Jim Hutton) works at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C. He has an admirer in sweet co-worker Verna Baxter (Dorothy Provine), who tries to woo him by giving him home-cooked (yet famously inedible) fudge, but he avoids her as he doesn't feel ready for anything serious. He also has an enemy in co-worker and supervisor Samson Link (David J. Stewart), who can't understand how Harry manages to live beyond his means. Unbeknownst to Link, Harry relies on free trials that enable him to take luxury apartments and ride in chauffeured cars, enjoying the good life, including romance with a sexy neighbor.
After Harry inadverdently drops $50,000 in new currency into a bag with Verna's fudge and leaves the mint with it, he then unknowingly destroys the newly minted money when he dumps the entire contents of the bag into his garbage disposal. Realizing what he has done, he now fears Link and an audit at the mint.
In desperation, Harry turns to Pop (Walter Brennan), a former mint employee forced into retirement just before getting the chance to operate the presses he always maintained - and now has little to live for except the company of his pregnant beagle, Inky. Pop agrees to help Harry sneak into the mint after hours and print up replacement currency.
Harry learns that they will both need help from others to break in and print the missing $50,000. One by one, he has to offer a partnership to a safecracker named Dugan (Jack Gilford); Luther (Milton Berle), a pawnbroker who can front expenses; Ralph (Joey Bishop), a public works employee who can navigate a secret passage to the mint through D.C.'s sewer system; a boat Captain (Victor Buono) who can create a boat that can fit down a manhole, and an ice cream truck driver named Willie (Bob Denver) who has the means to distract the one resident on the street whose apartment overlooks the manhole. Harry ultimately winds up asking Verna to help once Pop reminds him that a professional cutter will be needed to cut the printed sheets of bills. To his surprise, she agrees to help.
Unknown to Verna, however, the other conspirators accept an offer of $2,000 apiece at first, but as they rehearse for the big night, they decide to help Harry only on the condition that he and Pop will print them a million dollars apiece.
An unexpected change at the mint forces the timing of the caper to be moved up, the group has to drop what they are doing and go in immediately. Despite the rehearsals, many things go wrong during the job, not the least of which is Ralph bringing along his straight-off-the-boat Italian cousin Mario (Jamie Farr), and Pop's dog Inky going into labor. Verna is also upset when she discovers that far more money is being printed, as Harry had assured her they were only going to replace the missing $50,000.
After several setbacks, the group manages to leave with the money - over seven million dollars in all - only to have it later lost when Mario mistakenly allows uniformed garbage collectors (whom he mistakes for police) to haul away the cardboard boxes containing the bills, placing them on a barge to be dumped into the ocean.
Harry is defeated. He goes to the mint to confess to Link, knowing that he likely will lose his job and be sent to prison on a variety of felony charges. Pop saves the day, nonetheless when, on the steps of the mint, he turns up with $50,000 in extra bills that were printed and used to line the box in which Inky gave birth. Harry can replace the missing currency now, and he also has a new appreciation for the pure-hearted Verna. Later, the rest of the gang - including Inky - are seen searching for the lost currency via scuba diving equipment.
The score was composed by Lalo Schifrin.
The opening titles sequence - designed by the prolific Wayne Fitzgerald - displays the credits over images of US bank notes which were still in use for official transactions at the time, starting with a $1 bill and ending with a $100,000 bill.
Over $1,000,000 of real US currency was used in the movie but was carefully watched by armed guards. Most of the money shown being printed was 1 and 1/2 times larger than actual US currency and had obvious printing errors so there was no chance the money could be passed as genuine.
Dell published a 12-cent comic book version of this movie as a tie-in.
This film was originally available on a long out-of-print VHS. As of July 2012, Amazon.com offers the film through a press-on-demand DVD-R.
- Jim Hutton as Harry Lucas
- Dorothy Provine as Verna Baxter
- Walter Brennan as Pop Gillis
- Milton Berle as Luther Burton
- Joey Bishop as Ralph Randazzo
- Bob Denver as Willie Owens
- Jack Gilford as Avery Dugan
- Victor Buono as the Captain
- Jamie Farr as Mario
- David J. Stewart as Samson Link
- Jackie Joseph as Imogene Harris
- Peanuts as Inky
- Who's Minding the Mint? at the Internet Movie Database
- Who's Minding the Mint? at AllMovie
- Who's Minding the Mint? at the TCM Movie Database