Warner Bros. // 1972 // 94 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Chris Claro (Retired) // August 10th, 2010
"I am Hugh."
"You are me?"
The legend of Peter Bogdanovich plays as a Hollywood cautionary tale: upstart filmmaker gets a break with Roger Corman, then scores with a series of films that hit commercially and critically; begins to believe his own press and gets hoisted on his own petard with some big-budget indulgences, sheepishly returns to low-budget features and even TV(!); reinvents himself as actor and auteur emeritus in his dotage.
In those post-Corman glory days, Peter Bogdanovich could do no wrong. With The Last Picture Show -- which garnered Oscars for Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman -- and Paper Moon -- which brought Tatum O'Neal a statuette -- bracketing his screwball homage What's Up, Doc?, Bogdanovich created a trifecta of films that displayed both his craftsmanship as a director and his respect for the history of the medium. Warner's newly released Blu-ray of What's Up, Doc? is a reminder of the magic Bogdanovich was capable of.
Absentminded professor, daffy dame, lookalike suitcases, pratfalls, chases, and Madeline Kahn. Enough said.
One of the questions I always ask when someone says they recently re-viewed a classic is "Does it hold up?" Who knows if what worked for me in 1980, will have the same magic in 2010? Warner's new Blu-ray of What's Up, Doc? unequivocally holds up. From the machine-gun dialogue to the pinpoint choreography to the surprising comic timing of Ryan O'Neal -- for God's sake -- the film is as seamless today as it was when it packed Radio City Music Hall in 1972.
An homage to the screwball comedies of the '30s, What's Up, Doc? benefits not only from Bogdanovich's staging and framing -- precise and economical -- but from his casting as well. Aside from O'Neal and a never-more-winning Barbra Streisand (Meet the Fockers), Bogdanovich lards the film with appearances by such comic masters as Kenneth Mars (Young Frankenstein), Austin Pendleton (Oz), and John Hillerman (Magnum P.I.) and gives each player the chance to generate incandescent laughs with only a minimum of screen time.
Of course, the aforementioned Ms. Kahn (Blazing Saddles), who made her screen debut in the film, simply sparkles as O'Neal's strident fiancee. With her red wig and high-strung manner, Kahn's Eunice resembles nothing so much as a neurotic lollipop.
Though not the kind of film that one would think would benefit from a Blu-ray upgrade, What's Up, Doc? looks and sounds more glorious than ever. The colors are crisp and vibrant with virtually no pixelation and the San Francisco location footage looks better than ever. As the film wasn't particularly aurally accomplished, the 1.0 Dolby isn't particularly noteworthy, though.
In addition to a trailer and a featurette about the making of the film, there are two commentaries on What's Up, Doc?, both ported over from the previous DVD release. One is a scene-specific track featuring Streisand's reminiscences of making the film and it's a wan, half-hearted affair that sounds as if it was recorded when she had a few minutes between meetings. The real score is the feature-length commentary from Bogdanovich himself. Though he's a touch saturnine at times, it's a real joy to literally watch a movie with the director, especially one who is as committed to the medium as Bogdanovich. Whether he's recalling anecdotes about the stars or waxing informational about the way certain sequences were created, Bogdanovich's memories make a second viewing of What's Up, Doc? as enjoyable as the first.
As it nears its 40th anniversary, Bogdanovich's valentine to screwball comedy is buoyant, hilarious, and shows the director and his cast working at the peak of their powers. That this pristine Blu-ray puts a spanking new sheen on it only adds to the enjoyment.
Review content copyright © 2010 Chris Claro; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 1972
MPAA Rating: Rated G