Wash, rinse, repeat!
History certainly is a funny thing, and I mean that quite literally. Have you seen some of the hairstyles to come out of the 1960s and 1970s? Holy cow! I can't believe any of those people actually went out in public places with those bouffants and beehives! Not long ago I waded through my parent's old picture drawer and saw some of the most hideous haircuts this side of the comb-over. I bring this up because Warren Beatty's 1975 Academy Award winning comedy Shampoo is now out on DVD. Starring and co-written by Beatty (along with Chinatown scribe Robert Towne), Shampoo received four Oscar nominations and won a Best Supporting Actress award for actress Lee Grant (Defending Your Life, The Omen). Get ready for the digital style of your life!
Facts of the Case
Break out the curling iron and plug in your hairdryer, Shampoo is here! The film follows the wacky misadventures of George (Beatty), a Los Angeles hairstylist/sex machine who's shoving his "comb" into every available (and unavailable) woman in town. George is encouraged by his girlfriend, Jill (Goldie Hawn, The Banger Sisters), to open up his own beauty salon. George decides to seek financial assistance from conservative businessman Lester (Oscar nominee Jack Warden, Used Cars) to help him start up his new venture. Unbeknownst to Lester, George is actually sleeping with his wife Felicia (Grant), Lester's mistress Jackie (Julie Christie, Afterglow), and even Lester's own teenage daughter (a very young Carrie Fisher). Oy vey! Suddenly George's prancing sex life spins out of control as he attempts to keep his infidelities from everyone, and his customers happy!
All right, I'm not going to beat around the bush. I thought Shampoo pretty much sucked. I cannot believe this movie was chosen as one of the AFI's top 100 comedies of all time. Why? On the back of the package, a Los Angeles newspaper critic is quoted as saying "Shampoo will provoke shocked gasps and shrieks of laughter for its abundance of outrageous one liners." Huh? I don't recall one funny, memorable line from this film. Not a single one. It's a dated, dull, and rather boring movie.
The main problem with Shampoo isn't in the casting. For the most part, Beatty, Lee, Hawn, and Warden are all good. I was a little surprised at how small Hawn's role ended up being. Grant, who won an Academy Award for her role as Lester's wife, was fine though I don't know as I'd consider it an "Oscar caliber" performance. Ever since Dick Tracy, I've liked Warren Beatty—heck, I even sat through the mega bomb Ishtar (which is, I might add, much better than folks make it out be). Here Beatty resembles '80s rocker Rick Springfield with his puffy haircut and pouty lips. The film's main trouble lies in Beatty and Towne's mundane script. Technically this is a bedroom farce, though there isn't much going on in the way of laughs. I'm not sure how I was supposed to feel about Beatty's character—in my book he was just a sleazy, lying cheat with a lot of boyish charm. And I felt little empathy for the women who put up with his boorish behavior.
I realize that Shampoo is a time capsule of sorts; this is, after all, the sexually provocative late 1960s. Even so, everyone's actions and attitudes hinder any endearment to the viewer (or at least thisviewer). Everyone seems to be sleeping with everyone and the characters all appear to be shallow and self serving. The only guy that I really liked was Lester, if only because he just wanted women to love him even though everyone seemed to be around him for his monetary value.
I'm not sure as I can recommend Shampoo as a good, hearty comedy. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood (ha-ha) or maybe I was having a bad day—either way, Shampoo is about as exciting as getting your scalp massaged by Freddy Krueger.
Shampoo is presented in two options: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and a hacked 1.33:1 pan and scan version. The widescreen version of the film is, sadly, very dated with many flaws throughout. I spotted heavy grain in many scenes, especially any that took place at night. Though the colors and black levels were all generally solid, many colors appeared washed out and faded. I'd have assumed Columbia would have put a little more work into this acclaimed title. I was obviously wrong. Not surprisingly, I highly recommend the widescreen version over the choppy full frame one.
The soundtrack for Shampoo is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo in English and French. This soundtrack is about as exciting as the film itself. The track is very monophonic, with no directional effects leaking out. The dynamic range is at the bare minimum with a small amount of hiss popping up in a few key scenes, though it is free of excessive distortion. Also included on this disc are subtitles in English, Spanish, French, Thai, Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, and Japanese.
Though Shampoo was a critical and award winning hit, Columbia made the decision not to put together a special edition of the film. All that fans get are theatrical trailers for the films Cactus Flower (Goldie Hawn's fist film), Warren Beatty's Bugsy, and the Adam Sandler comedy Mr. Deeds.
Shampoo is a bland, mundane comedy at best. In 1975, Shampoo may have been all the rage, but in 2003 it's about as stylish as a pair of shaggy mutton chops. Columbia's work on this DVD edition of the film feels half-hearted—the video, audio and supplements are all only so-so.
Shampoo is sentenced to five years hard labor as the warden's resident barber.
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