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Category:    Home > Reviews > Kotch



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



When the Generation Gap was such an issue during the late 1960s, several Hollywood films tried to take it on.  One of the more amusing is the feature film directing debut of Jack Lemmon and the only film he ever helmed.  Kotch (1971) stars Walter Matthau as the title character, an old widower who is becoming detached from society and even his own family.  To fill the void, he reaches out to an unwed, pregnant girl (Deborah Winter) to help her and maybe learn something new about himself and life.


The film is not as sappy as it could have been, and even tends to be a sort of salute to Matthau by Lemmon, who knows him well enough to know what will and will not work for him in the film.  Matthau had already had an interesting directorial debut himself years before in Gangster Story (1960, reviewed elsewhere on this site as part of BFS’ Classic Gangster Movies; http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review.php?id=726&filter=C), which was interesting.  Matthau earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, which he deserved, as he is consistent and believable throughout.


The whimsy of the film can be winning, but it is not the best film of its kind and has not always aged well.  It is often even a time capsule of its time, but its insistence on dealing with the dignity of its characters and life is not as formulaic and phony as this would have the high likelihood of being if it were made from the early 1980s to date.  I also want to note the performance of the great character actor Charles Aidman, who was so good, he could be a nice guy or a real so and so.  In this film, he is Mr. Kotcher’s (Matthau) son, who is a nice guy, but has lost connection with his father in a way he honestly does not realize.  He even loves his father, but that does not necessarily mean that care is well rounded.


John Paxon adapted the Katharine Topkins novel and this was actually made by the ABC television network when they were producing films for theatrical distribution.  Many of the films in that catalog had been previously issued by Anchor Bay when they held the rights, but this was not one of them, so this is the DVD debut of this film.


The letterboxed 1.85 X 1 image was shot nicely by Richard H. Kline, A.S.C., and the film print is not bad.  I even like the color.  The video master looks like a professional analog master used for letterboxed TV broadcasts and is not anamorphically enhanced.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is oddly smaller sounding than it should be, which makes hearing things an occasional problem and robs the dialogue of moments by being so cold and limited.  Marvin Hamlisch supplies a fine score with as much serendipity as the title character himself, the kind of score Hamlisch thrives at composing.  There are not any extras of any kind, not even a trailer.  The film is no classic, but Kotch is worth seeing just once for its better moments.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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