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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Satire > Sports > Football > Legal System > TV > Fraud > Drama > Homelessness > Animals > Britain > Fin > The Fortune Cookie (1966/United Artists/MGM/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/A Street Cat Named Bob (2015/Cleopatra/MVD Visual Blu-ray)/The Wheeler Dealers (1963/MGM/Filmways/Warner Archive Blu-

The Fortune Cookie (1966/United Artists/MGM/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/A Street Cat Named Bob (2015/Cleopatra/MVD Visual Blu-ray)/The Wheeler Dealers (1963/MGM/Filmways/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/You'll Never Get Rich (1941/Sony/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Zero To Sixty (1978/First Artists/MGM Limited Edition Collection DVD)



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



PLEASE NOTE: The Zero To Sixty DVD is now only available online and can be ordered from our friends at Movie Zyng via the order button atop this review or on top of our right hand sidebar, while The Fortune Cookie and You'll Never Get Rich Blu-rays are now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, are limited to only 3,000 copies each and can be ordered while supplies last, and The Wheeler Dealers is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.



Here's a round of old (and old fashioned) comedies that are ambitious, but all of which deliver mixed results...



Billy Wilder's The Fortune Cookie (1966) is a comedy about a con job as lawyer Walter Matthau sees football cameraman Jack Lemmon and his video camera knocked over by an NFL Football player. Is he OK? If not, let's sue CBS, the NFL and anyone else we can for a fortune. Broken into segments to show the 'procedure' ad steps to making this happen, this was funnier then perhaps as this has become all too common on smaller, endless cases that are rarely this high profile. Having not had seen this for a long time, I only remembered it in bits and pieces, was not that amused then and cannot say it got funnier since. I can at least see how smart it is.


Not Wilder's biggest hit or most famous film, MGM has released this United Artists via Twilight Time as a Limited Edition Blu-ray and such a key film should be available, especially widescreen looking this good as intended. Completists and fans will be particularly happy. Judi West, Ron Rich and Cliff Osmond also stars.



Roger Spottiswoode's A Street Cat Named Bob (2015) is a drama with some comedy based on the true story of James Bowen (Luke Treadaway) who was living on the street often homeless and not knowing where to turn when he met a stray cat that he started taking care of. This eventually changed his life around ands even the lives of others around him. Now we've seen this kind of story before, but it is not badly by Spottiswoode, whose TV work has been more consistent than his theatrical films (for every Shoot To Kill, Tomorrow Never Dies, Under Fire and Terror Train, we've had to tolerate a Turner & Hooch, 6th Day, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Air America and even The Journey Home) so this is one of his better films.


Instead of being picked up a by major studio (most of whom have abandoned indie films too much for our own good), the Cleopatra company has picked it up and it is being distributed by MVD Visual on Blu-ray in the U.S., so it is worth a look if you are interested. I just wish it had found a new approach to the material.



Arthur Hiller's The Wheeler Dealers (1963) is also about con artists, but this time, James Garner is a guy who makes money out of being an in-between man for others and their money, plus other financial needs. It is a cozy arrangement for him he has parlayed into success, but money is not everything, especially when a woman who might be his equal (Lee Remick in stunning fashion) shows up in his life. This also has a fine supporting cast of actors usually (mostly) known for comedy like Phil Harris, Jim Backus, John Aston, Chill Wills, Louis Nye, Elliott Reid and Patricia Crawley, but despite a solid journeyman like Hiller at the helm, the script is just too obvious and restrictive throughout. No doubt the cast has appeal that the producers (MGM and the underrated Filmways company) knew could work, but it is not just that good and I found little funny.


Still, it should be seen, especially with who is in it and involved, so it is a good thing Warner Archive has restored the film and issued it on Blu-ray. Now you can judge for yourself.



Sidney Lanfield's You'll Never Get Rich (1941) is a rare Fred Astaire musical at the time NOT made at RKO and was also done as WWII propaganda. One of the reasons is that his co-star was Rita Hayworth, the #1 sex symbol at the time and Columbia Studios likely did not want to loan her out. They were a smaller company then, so it bears repeating only the big majors were supposed to luck out this way. In any event, this is one of the weakest stories and plots of any music of the time and certainly of anything Astaire ever did.


Yet, his musical and dance moments break through the monotony and Hayworth more than holds her own solo and especially with him. They have great chemistry and it is worth suffering thigh the many dated and down moments, though in fairness to the film, the propaganda is a necessity and makes this a time capsule. Sony has licensed this to Twilight Time so they can issue it as on of their great Limited Edition Blu-ray, so fans should order while they can. Robert Benchley, John Hubbard, Osa Massen, Frieda Inescort, Guinn Williams and Donald McBride also star.



Don Weis' Zero To Sixty (1978) is an interesting attempt to do a fun 1970s chase comedy with a bit of screwball sensibility (think What's Up Doc? (1872, reviewed elsewhere on this site)) with some sometimes darker jokes. The great Darren McGavin (Kolchak: The Night Stalker, A Christmas Story, Tribes) is a man going through a divorce and is about to loose his car to repossession via a new 16-year-old repo gal (Denise Nickerson being set up for a potential star-making role that did not happen, but she's hot the mouth and energy to keep up with things going back to her child acting days) and it is a novel idea. It is also meant to be a fun family comedy, before Hollywood gave up on them or got mall movie 1980s phony about them.


One of the last major releases by the First Artists production company (Up The Sandbox, Straight Time, Up The Sandbox, Agatha, The Main Event, the huge 1976 hit remake of A Star Is Born with Barbra Streisand) shows some very smart people also believed in this project behind the scenes. Of course, the biggest and most well-liked (and well-loved) actors in the business, McGavin (beyond money) could always get some of the biggest stars around on all his projects as Kolchak alone demonstrated. Here, we get funny and even hilarious turns by Joan Collins (still pre-Dynasty and looking great as always), Lyle Waggoner, Sylvia Miles, Vito Scotti, Dick Martin, Gordon MacRae, Lorraine Gray, David Huddleston, Al Checco, Francine York, Jack Grinnage and singing trio The Hudson Brothers, trying to see if their hit TV show and hit records could extend to the big screen.


Weis directed feature films in the 1950s before becoming one the the most prolific TV journeymen ever, from dramas and comedies to variety shows to the 1960s Batman and most significantly here, four of the best Kolchak episodes. Even when the film does not work, the energy, ambition, joy and obvious fun the actors are having makes seeing this at least worth seeing once. McGavin's wife Katherine Browne produced (she has a brief cameo at the beginning, though I wished she were in the film) and did a fine job. Those interested should check it out.



The four Blu-ray releases here are up to what you'd expect for films of their type and age with the 1080p 2.35 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image on Cookie is looking fine throughout with its vivid-enough Panavision 35mm shoot, showing just how effectively Wilder was using the widescreen frame to get his laughs. The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Cat is the only digital shoot here, but it has better color throughout than most digital shoots of late that have the dumb habit of dulling the color. Here, it makes the streets of London all the more effective, day and night.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Wheeler can show the age of the materials used at times, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film thanks to a new HD master from Warner what shows off its MetroColor (this is about as accurate as it gets) and anamorphic Panavision 35mm shoot.


The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Rich can also show the age of the materials used, but that is to be expected from an older film, yet Columbia Pictures gave it the best monochrome 35mm film stock it could muster. Thus, it looks as good as anything they had made to that time (save color productions when they could afford those). Of course, the dance sequences really shine.


That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Sixty looking decent, with some consistent color, but also a bit more softness throughout considering how good the quality of the 35mm print used here actually is. The answer? An older video master that was good enough for this release, though I bet this would be surprisingly good on Blu-ray should that happen down the line.


As for sound, Cat is the newest production and it sports a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix, bit something went wrong for this Blu-ray and the dialogue is sometimes overwhelmed by the music in the mix. I tested this a few times just to make sure, so be careful of high levels of playback. Cookie, Wheeler and Rich were all originally theatrical monophonic sound releases, so they are presented authentically as so with DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 1.0 Mono (or 2.0 Mono on Wheeler) lossless mixes and they cannot get much further with the original soundtracks than they do here. I cannot imagine these sounding any better, so the restoration work is warm and clear as we are likely ever to hear it for these films. That will make fans happy.


The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Zero does sound a generation down and you should also be careful of volume switching and high playback levels, but in itself it is a decent monophonic recording late in the mono era before Dolby System stereo took over. The Hudson Brothers vocal songs suffer the most.



Extras are limited, but Cookie and Rich get nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text with more excellent, underrated essays by the great film scholar Julie Kirgo, Isolated Music Scores (Rich also has some sound effects on its track) and Original Theatrical Trailers, Wheeler only has a Trailer and Bob offers a Slide Show, Cast Interviews and Behind The Scenes Bonus Footage.



To order The Fortune Cookie and You'll Never Get Rich limited edition Blu-rays, buy them while supplies last at these links:


www.screenarchives.com


and


http://www.twilighttimemovies.com/



and to order The Wheeler Dealers Warner Archive Blu-ray, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


http://www.wbshop.com/



- Nicholas Sheffo


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