Paramount // 1970 // 97 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 18th, 2003
When they take you for an out-of-towner, they really take you.
Pity poor Iowan George Kellerman (Jack Lemmon, Grumpy Old Men) and his doting wife Gwen (Sandy Dennis, Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff?). When George is offered the chance at a dream job in New York, he thinks that his interview and subsequent stay in The Big Apple will end up as one smooth ride. He was wrong...very, very wrong. Things go from bad to worse for the Kellermans when their plane is rerouted to Boston due to weather conditions and holding patterns. This throws off not only George and Gwen's dinner reservations but also George's interview opportunity: he has to be in New York by 9:00AM so he can land the perfect job. As the couple attempt to get from point A (Boston) to point B (New York), they find that anything can go wrong...and pretty much does. Muggers, missed trains, lost luggage, anger strikers, chipped teeth, broken heels, torrential downpours...you name it and George and his wife have probably survived it. It will take all of their energy and wits to survive the beast known as New York, even if it kills them.
The reason I so enjoyed director Arthur Hiller's The Out-Of-Towners is a simple one: it had me laughing from beginning to end. This is no small feat, all things considering; how many movies have you seen lately that continually keep you in stitches? Based on the screenplay by one of the 20th century's greatest comedy writers, Neil Simon (who also worked with Lemmon in the classic The Odd Couple), The Out-Of-Towners is filled with lunacy on top of lunacy -- every situation is seemingly worse than the last. The allure of the movie is that it doesn't make an attempt to be the wittiest, most sophisticated comedy ever made; all it wants to do is give you a few hearty belly laughs. Jack Lemmon is in fine form as George, a man so neurotic that he appears to be wound as tight as a drum (he's always telling his wife not to worry about various things, even though it's he who's worrying). As George encounters various people (AKA enemies), he threatens almost all of them with lawsuits, which is one of the funniest gags in the film. Only a seasoned pro like Lemmon could have pulled off a gag like this and make it work. Dennis as his wife and sometimes foil plays her character with a bit of subservient attitude and, when the need arises, batty exhaustion. The plot, as it stands, isn't very deep: we're basically given two characters that need to get from their airplane to a hotel and then to a business meeting. It's what Simon, Hiller, and the cast do with this little idea that's so special -- in fact, as I sit here writing about this film I'm realizing that you really need to just see the film to appreciate it. Do yourself a favor and rent (or, I'd even go so far as to recommend buying) The Out-Of-Towners -- it's a trip you won't regret taking.
The Out-Of-Towners is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Paramount has pulled out a fine looking print from their vaults, albeit a slightly worn and dated one. The colors are usually bright with black levels appearing solid and dark. There is some grain and dirt in the picture on occasion, though it's never overly intrusive to the viewing. I wouldn't consider this a reference quality transfer, obviously, but it is decent looking for its age (well over 30 years old). The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in English and French. Ah, the glorious acoustics of monaural sound! Actually, this isn't a bad sound mix, all things considered -- though a small amount of distortion is heard in the mix, the bulk of this track is crystal clear. Hey, it's a goofy little comedy from the early 1970s -- do you need anything more? Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
With the passing of both Lemmon and Dennis, it's obvious that a commentary track was out of the question by its two stars. But couldn't Paramount at least have come up with a trailer, mini-featurette, something, anything? Apparently not...The Out-Of-Towners is a completely bare bones disc, not unlike almost every other Paramount catalog title.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Rated G