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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Hollywood > Pop Culture > Off The Menu - The Last Days Of Chasen's

Off The Menu Ė The Last Days Of Chasenís (Documentary)


Picture: C+†††† Sound: B-†††† Extras: B†††† Film: B



It was as legendary as the stars themselves in many respects, a place where the old school Hollywood elite ate at, but even it would not last forever.Off The Menu Ė The Last Days Of Chasenís (1997) is a remarkable portrait of one of the hottest locations Hollywood ever had.The high-class, ultra-professional restaurant was especially favored by the likes of former MCA/Universal giant Lew Wasserman, Alfred Hitchcock, a pre-President Ronald & Nancy Reagan, Frank Sinatra, and the rest of the infamous Rat Pack just for starters.Lasting over half-a-century, the famed eatery saw the rise, fall and rise again of the powerful filmmaking town.


Before their recent success with the highly regarded American Splendor, filmmakers Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini pulled off a one-of-a-kind gem here, which starts out being about Chasenís, then moves on to the value of commitment, the changes in our society that are not necessarily for the better, about wasted lives and lives lived.Cameras were never allowed in the restaurant, so any footage here is area indeed and there are only snapshots and newspaper clips that show the past.That is why this is such a rare glimpse indeed.As they say, better late than never.


The whoís who extends to Jack Lemmon, Jay Leno, Sharon Stone, Jane Wyman, Donna Summer, Rod Steiger, Fay Wray, Jimmy Stewart, and many others you may or may not recognize, but know unless you are really in the know, you will never be able to identify all the key people you see.Chasenís combination of exclusivity, service, great food, privacy and atmosphere was a perfect match for the rich and powerful in tinseltown.We are lucky we have even this to see, as this is really a privileged look into a private world.For every one of these we see, there are hundreds we do not, unless we go there ourselves.Good show!


Although this did originate on film, this is an older analog transfer of the materials and it is a bit limited in detail and naturalness, though some brief footage was shot on tape.It does not fare better.All of it is full frame, but it is going to take a digital High Definition transfer to really do justice to all the dark scenes anyhow, so that brings us to the sound.This is a relatively recent recording, and is here in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with some Pro Logic surrounds.The program is still interview-based, but has a great use of music, form hit records to a surprisingly good score by Mark Suozzo.Extras include two recipes from the restaurant feature din the film, brief bio text on the co-directors, a photo gallery, previews of many other Docurama titles, and a great audio commentary update by the co-directors and former employee Raymond Bibool.It was he who helped them get the special access to the place to begin with and turned out to be one of their most interesting characters.The updates we get in the commentary alone are especially great after you watch the main program, because you want to know more.Get this one soon.



-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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