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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Satire > Romance > Science > Horror > Spoof > The Nutty Professor: 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray + DVD Box Set (1963/Paramount/Warner Blu-ray w/DVDs + CD)

The Nutty Professor: 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray + DVD Box Set (1963/Paramount/Warner Blu-ray w/DVDs + CD)

Picture: B+ Sound: C+ Extras: B Films: B-

Jerry Lewis is not taken seriously. Sure, maybe as a humanitarian from putting the battle against Muscular Dystrophy on the map, but as an artist. Though he is respected in France, here, he is just that funny comic, a misnomer he trashes in Martin Scorsese's underrated The King Of Comedy (1984), but the enduring career speaks for itself. His cinema (even when he was first paired with Dean Martin at Paramount and they had their string of hits) was as subversive and wacky as his idol, Stan Laurel's humor and made them a pair as formidable as Laurel & Hardy or Abbott & Costello. Going solo, a move that confused most and seemed like commercial suicide, he immediately proved himself (as Martin would in movies, music and an insanely successful hit TV show) as a talent unto himself.

His cinema is about the absurdity of societal norms, deconstructing them, asking what happiness really is and in all that, asking us what is madness, embarrassment and classiness really about. What does it really mean. Now that we have The Nutty Professor: 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray + DVD Box Set (1963), we can look at the film two ways, as an outright comedy that may be the greatest Jekyll & Hyde spoof ever made, but also a personal statement about us and himself.

Lewis is timid, not-so-well-spoken science Professor Julius Kelp, insecure, a little sad and trying to carry on when he starts to find interest in a beautiful student near his age (a very clever Stella Stevens looking beautiful, shot in the classic Hollywood style), but how to get her? His solution is to come up with... a solution! One that will cancel out his flaws and bring out something stronger and more aggressive in him. It turns him into a monster... of a different kind, an angry, successful, but arrogant lounge singer and powerful personality ironically named Buddy Love. It was always said he was bashing Dean Martin and he has denied it over the decades. I agree it was never about Martin (or Frank Sinatra, who they were best friends with and has some mannerisms Love has), but most people missed the point... it is the reason why Lewis ended his Martin partnership. Being this is the monster, I believe it was always about his fear that they would become monsters by becoming a spoof of themselves and maybe worse, though it is also a bold critique of the entertainment industry most could not get away with and Lewis did.

The character also plays on the fear of media and the major success music acts in general could have (and this a year before The Beatles arrived) so he is doing some much more clever here than he ever got credit for and that makes it some of the only dark comedy he ever created outside of working with Scorsese. But the film never wallows in this or anything else as it moves briskly and effectively from scene to scene.

There may be a few predictable moments here and there (being it is Jekyll & Hyde mythology , he had no choice in at some points, obviously), but he also has more great acting talent to join him and Stevens, including the irrepressible Kathleen Freeman, Del Moore, Howard Morris, Buddy Lester, Marvin Kaplan, Henry Gibson and everyone seeming to be in the same off-kilter state that makes this film work all these years later. The Eddie Murphy remakes were big hits, but were too gross and silly to be take seriously and I am not a fan (see my reviews elsewhere on this site), but the original has aged well and has even become an underrated comedy, give or take a few flaws.

Now you can really appreciate it in this stunning new Blu-ray with a full restoration that will impress.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer hardly ever shows the age of the materials used, is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film, is pretty pristine and pretty much a total representation of a dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor version of the film you would get in 35mm if you were lucky (such prints are worth serious money now). The stunning big surprise of this set, once you start watching it, you cannot stop. Director of Photography W. Wallace Kelly, A.S.C. (Fastest Gun Alive, Watermelon Man) was Lewis' DP on so many of his solo outings and the use of color (along with the help of the costumers (led by Edith Head) and set/production designers) is very impressive and more than you might suspect based on the copies circulating for so long.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is towards the front speakers, but this was originally a monophonic film, yet more than the Walter Scharf score should benefit from this upgrade.

Extras in this great box set packaging in the mode of previous Warner Blu-ray releases includes a personal message note from Lewis especially penned for this set, 48-Page Storyboard Book. 96-page Recreated “Being A Person” book (250 copies of this book were originally made and distributed to members of the cast and crew of Nutty Professor after the director heard of general conflicts amongst them) and 44-Page Cutting Script with Lewis' personal notes, then on Blu-ray we get the new HD extra Jerry Lewis: No Apologies covering eight decades of his incredible career, The Nutty Professor: Perfecting The Formula Behind-The-Scenes Footage, Jerry Lewis at Work, Jerry at Movieland Wax Museum with commentary by son Chris Lewis, Deleted Scenes, amusing Jerry and Stella Promos, Bloopers, Screen Tests, Outtakes, Original Mono Track in lossy Dolby Digital sound, Trailers (including one that spoofs Hitchcock's Psycho!) and feature length audio commentary track by Jerry Lewis and Steve Lawrence.

They also do similar tracks for the older copies of Errand Boy and Cinderfella here on DVD (both showing their age and needing Blu-ray upgrades) and we get Nutty Professor on DVD and finally, a CD dubbed Phoney Phone calls 1959-1972 originally issued in 2001 on the Sin-Drome label, he did not go to jail over it, but he is amusing here too of course, as always.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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