Warner Bros. // 1980 // 99 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // April 7th, 2000
The snobs against the slobs.
Caddyshack is one of those wacky comedies that have simply permeated the culture. Over the years I've heard more quotes from this movie around the water cooler than almost any other. This goofy film was the directorial debut of Harold Ramis, who has also directed such movies as Groundhog Day and Analyze This and was the screenwriter of even more greats such as Ghostbusters, Stripes, and Animal House. A stellar cast and some of the best ad-libbing around make this movie one to keep.
The releasing of this film has not been kind to the DVD fan in the past. In 1997 a pan-and-scan only version with a trailer for extras was produced, and then last year we fans of the format were shunned by a widescreen special edition release in VHS only. Finally now we get a better version on DVD, with a new anamorphic transfer and more extras. I'm very happy to have it, but it could have been much better.
Did I mention I love this movie? I've probably seen it over 20 times. Chevy Chase (Fletch, Snow Day, Vacation) as Ty Webb is his most memorable role, and arguably the best he's ever done. I could say the same for Rodney "I get no respect" Dangerfield (Back to School, Natural Born Killers) even though he's done basically the same character in later movies. This was Rodney's first feature film, but he didn't let his anxiety or inexperience show on the screen. Then-young Michael O'Keefe (Ghosts of Mississippi, Three Wishes, TV's Roseanne) was very good as well. But it was Bill Murray (Ghostbusters, Stripes, Rushmore) as the wacky groundskeeper Carl Spackler who often stole the show. There was one other standout character that will go down in history as the best loved rodent (perhaps now with the exception of Stuart Little); the little mechanical gopher who makes a mess out of the golf course. For those who haven't seen the movie, golf is the main common theme in Caddyshack, and in my mind remains the best golf movie of all time.
Originally, as the title would suggest, the film was meant to be a more modest one about caddies at a stuffy country club. It was only when such great adult actors were cast that much of the script was changed. Only O'Keefe's character Danny Noonan had any real range left from the original script. I could almost say the word "script" with a laugh, because so much of the film was ad-libbed by stars who cut their teeth on Saturday Night Live and the Second City improv comedy troupe. Harold Ramis gave the actors their freedom to try different things and picked the best lines throughout. Or perhaps they stole that freedom from him since he was directing his first picture. Either way, the results were hilarious.
For the 25 people in America who haven't seen this movie from the hundreds of times it has been on television or film, the story is basically one of the Bushwood Country Club, a stuffy place lorded over by Judge Smails (Ted Knight of TV's Mary Tyler Moore show fame). There are three stories going on within this setting; of Smails' discomfort and dislike of the new visitor Al Czervic (Dangerfield), a rude and obnoxious loudmouth, and of the caddy Danny Noonan who is trying anything to get a scholarship to college from the country club, even if it means cozying up to the slimy Judge. Noonan often caddies for and takes his advice from Ty Webb, an extremely eccentric millionaire who plays golf by himself without keeping score. The advice is often both ludicrous and enlightening at once, and is delivered dead-pan by Chevy Chase. The third story is of the fierce battle for control of the golf course between Bill Murray and a little mechanical gopher. Despite using squirrels made out of plastic explosives, fire hoses, and sniper rifles the gopher manages to stay one step ahead of him. A sideline plot about the sexy young niece of Judge Smails (named Lacy Underall, played by the still gorgeous Cindy Morgan of television's Falcon Crest fame) who manages to get undressed a few times, and some various other scenes with the other caddies and members of the club keep the movie hopping at all times.
While there is a story, and a good one, what makes the movie so special is the individual scenes and lines that just keep coming. From Ty asking Danny "Are you taking drugs?" and the replies "Everyday" "Good" and the results of a Baby Ruth bar floating in a pool; to Bill Murray showing off the new grass he's developed (part Kentucky bluegrass and part marijuana) that you can play 18 holes on and then get stoned with after, there is far too much funny stuff to mention. Sure, some of it, particularly the drug humor is a bit dated, but it's all good.
From last year's VHS special edition we get the half hour documentary "Caddyshack: The 19th Hole," which is filled with interviews from most of the stars and director, along with great behind the scenes footage and information. I wish it had been longer as I loved every minute of it. Production notes and the trailer complete the extra package.
I suppose I have to give Warner credit for a new anamorphic transfer. But I can't give them much. Frankly, the transfer isn't very good. While colors are well done, though a bit washed out, there is a ton of grain and film defects visible throughout. It appears no effort was made to clean up any nicks or scratches from the work print. Motion artifacts and jagged edges, and some pixelation crop up often as well. I'm very unhappy with the results. Certainly it looks better than VHS, and without some effort it will never look better, but I have to say it is a shame that the effort wasn't made now. If not now, when?
The sound fares better than the picture but still has problems. A Dolby Digital mono track has been done, which of course remains in your center channel throughout. It is fairly expansive for music, but dialogue has some distortion. It's adequate, you can still understand what is being said, but I feel that the soundtrack too could have been given more effort.
The disc is called 20th Anniversary Edition rather than a Special Edition. I'm happy with the extras that are on the disc but I believe Caddyshack deserved a true special edition. A commentary track from Harold Ramis and any of the actors involved would have been fantastic. There are some deleted scenes in the documentary but more that have been seen in various television versions of the film that aren't. I would have liked, and I know the director would not have objected to having those other scenes, which have actually been in the film, included as a separate extra.
I was torn about this review. Certainly the film is the most important thing, and this is a film that many fans will want in their collection. However, I also feel Warner did not do what it should have done in giving us the film in its best state. Why go to the trouble of paying for a new anamorphic transfer and not use available software to clean up the print? Or if that software was used and the film was still in this bad shape then why not do a restoration? The film stock is only getting older. Certainly every film doesn't deserve such treatment but I believe this one did. I have to wonder as well why the distortion in the dialogue wasn't picked up in the Quality Assurance phase of production as well. I'm forced to recommend that you rent this disc before purchase and determine for yourself if it is worth your money. For me it is, barely.
The cast and crew of Caddyshack are acquitted without question. Warner is sentenced to 20 years of hard labor for not putting the labor needed to provide the quality of picture, sound, and extras this film deserved. Sentence will be suspended if they license the film to someone like Criterion to do a proper job.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Production Notes