Sony // 1989 // 102 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // October 29th, 2001
The blind guy couldn't see it. The deaf guy couldn't hear it. Now they're both wanted for murder!
Great comedy duos are hard to come by. You can probably count on one hand the number of dynamic duos that have graced the silver screen with gut-busting results. Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Farley and Spade, Matthau and Lemmon...and of course, Pryor and Wilder. Back in the 1970s and '80s Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor made some pretty funny movies together, including Silver Streak and Stir Crazy. In the late '80s and early '90s they did their final films together, including Another You (Pryor's last true starring role) and the 1989 slapstick farce See No Evil, Hear No Evil, released on DVD by Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment.
While inquiring about a job at a local newsstand, Wally (Pryor), who is blind, and Dave (Wilder), who is deaf, accidentally "witness" the murder of a local bookie. However, Wally only heard the gunshot and Dave only saw the murderer's legs walking out of the building. As the police arrive the two men are caught peering over the dead body with the gun, and it's assumed that they must be the suspects! Taken into custody the two men are charged with murder, until a daring escape puts them on the lam and on the loose! Hot on their trails are the real killers, the seductive Eve (Joan Severance, Black Scorpion) and her assistant Kirgo (Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects), who are looking for a gold coin that Wally and Dave are unwittingly carrying. Through wild mishaps and adventurous pursuits, Wally and Dave must figure out how to stay one step ahead of the authorities and clear their names before they end up in the big house or an unmarked grave!
See No Evil, Hear No Evil is one of those movies that plays a lot funnier in your memory than it does on screen. When I was a kid I can recall seeing See No Evil, Hear No Evil with my mother and thinking that it was an absolute riot. With the inclusion of Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder how could it not be? Years later (i.e., last night) I watched See No Evil, Hear No Evil again, and I found that the second time was clearly not the charm.
I really like Richard Pryor. Two of my favorite comedies are Moving and The Toy, both starring Pryor in very funny performances. In his later years Pryor has developed signs of MS, and his performance in See No Evil, Hear No Evil is proof that in his final film years he was starting to slow down. This isn't to say that Pryor is bad or doesn't have good comedic timing -- it's just that you can tell it was time for him to finish his run in movies (this case was driven home even harder in the abysmal Another You). Gene Wilder is also a funny guy. Young Frankenstein is probably the funniest of all the Mel Brooks films, with much accolades going to Wilder's hysterical portrayal of Dr. Frankenstein's frantic son. In the past decade, Wilder hasn't worked in movies much, and the sad fact is that he seems to be a comedy piece from a time since past; his work of yesterday is funny, but his work today is not. Baffling, ain't it?
Which brings us back to See No Evil, Hear No Evil. There are some very funny lines or scenes in the movie. I liked Pryor's response to a final request before he's to be shot and killed by his attractive assailant ("I guess a fuck is out of the question?"). Watching Wilder and Pryor being questioned by an irritated detective also served up a few chuckles. However, these comedic moments seemed be spread out widely during the movie. Maybe the trouble comes in the form of the screenplay (by no less than five writers, including Wilder). The plot for See No Evil, Hear No Evil hinges on a cheesy caper that doesn't serve up much in the way of comedic potential. The movie goes on to be a series of chase sequences that lose steam less than halfway through the film. Director Arthur Hiller (who also directed the two in Silver Streak) is a very apt filmmaker, he just doesn't have anything great to work off of. One of the most entertaining aspects about See No Evil, Hear No Evil is an early performance by superstar Kevin Spacey as Kirgo, an accented killer who is a typical bad guy (which means that he waits around with his gun pointed at Wally and Dave until they finally figure out a way to escape). With an ugly moustache and odd accent, this performance by Spacey is like getting a peek at your mom in a bathing suit when she was a teenager: strange, unsettling and very, very odd.
I'm not going to say that See No Evil, Hear No Evil is a bad movie, because I think that watching Pryor and Wilder together is a lot of fun no matter what movie they're in. However, if you're looking for top-notch comedy and a great script, you're going to be sorely disappointed.
See No Evil, Hear No Evil is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (with a full frame version located on side B of the disc). While this presentation of See No Evil, Hear No Evil is solid, there are some imperfections that mar the image, including a slight amount of edge enhancement, some grain and dirt, and a bit of shimmer. Overall colors look bright and clear with black levels nice and solid. Not a perfect transfer by Columbia, but not a very bad one either.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround and works fine in the confines of this film. See No Evil, Hear No Evil is a comedy with only minimal effects, so a new 5.1 remix wasn't needed as desperately as some other movie soundtracks. Dialogue, effects and music are all clear and free of hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are subtitles in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Thai, and Korean. Yes, now even Thailand can understand the comedy wit that is Wilder and Pryor!
The only extra features included on this version of See No Evil, Hear No Evil are four theatrical trailers for the films See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Money Train, and the Martin Lawrence movies Blue Streak and Bad Boys.
For a good price I can recommend See No Evil, Hear No Evil to Richard Pryor or Gene Wilder fans. Otherwise, this is one for the rental bin on a Saturday night. Columbia has done a decent job on this title, though all in all it's nothing overly spectacular.
See No Evil, Hear No Evil is out on bail for now...though I don't know if it's going to be able to find its way out the door...
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailers