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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Relationships > Romance > Family > Drama > Western > Satire > Slapstick > Australia > Leisure Seeker (2017/Sony DVD)/The Life and Times Of Judge Roy Bean (1972/National General/First Artists/Blu-ray)/Reckless Kelly (1993/DVD/both Warner Archive)

Leisure Seeker (2017/Sony DVD)/The Life and Times Of Judge Roy Bean (1972/National General/First Artists/Blu-ray)/Reckless Kelly (1993/DVD/both Warner Archive)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean Blu-ray and Reckless Kelly DVD are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Here are three comedies you should know about, no matter the results....

The newest is Paolo Virsi's The Leisure Seeker (2017) based on the best-selling book about a couple in one of my favorite kinds of films, the road trip movie. This time, the couple is elderly, married for a long time and played in an excellent moment of casting by Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren. They are so good here that no matter what happens here, you cannot stop watching, but Virsi proved his directing capacity with Human Capital (reviewed elsewhere on this site), so the result is an underrated gem more people need to see.

The couple is supposed to spend time with their children in a visit, but when they get there, the parents have flown their empty nest and taken the Winnebago vacation vehicle of the title. That is amusing and we get nice little moments like that throughout, but along with the comedy that works almost all the time is a sadder story that has this as their last trip ever as she is not well and he is suffering something akin to dementia or the like, yet the script does not focus on that or wallow in it (avoiding that 'disease of the week' pothole) and becomes a character study of the love and pain the couple has from their many years together told in ways that never rings false.

That does not mean the script does not hit a few bumps or that we have not ever seen any of this before, but it is done with such freshness and honesty that I am shocked this has not received more critical acclaim. I hope it gets discovered by surprise as a big home video hit!

John Huston's The Life and Times Of Judge Roy Bean (1972) is also a satire with Paul Newman as the title character, who goes from rundown victim to self-made man... and myth. Produced by Newman's great First Artists company, he and Huston are deconstructing the Western and at this point, go for both Spaghetti Westerns without the humor becoming Blazing Saddles and the genre in general in a look at it not unlike Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller (both reviewed elsewhere on this site). Ultimately, it is a Western by people who love westerns for Western fans that takes its time and tells a story over a few generations, but manages to do this without dragging. This is the longer version of the film.

Mind you, if you don't like Westerns, it will seem longer and for those persons, once will likely be enough for this film, but it is something different, not always politically correct, deals with more overt violence than you might expect and also continues Newman's long look at Southern life throughout his career that is not always noted. This starts with his Billy The Kid in the great Arthur Penn's early The Left-Handed Gun, his bold turn in Richard Brooks' Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (both 1958), his brilliant performance in Martin Ritt's masterpiece Hud (1963), a remake of a Kurosawa classic with The Outrage (1964), challenging turn in Hombre (1967), another classic with Cool Hand Luke (1967), massive blockbuster Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid (1969) and after this film, Altman's Buffalo Bill and the Indians (1976), though fans might add a few more. I'll quit there.

Films that took a serio-comic look at the West were not uncommon at this point, but Huston (who actually shows up as Grizzly Adams here!) was going to get everyone's hands dirty all the way and the result are some surprises that were shocking then and after the backwards mall movies, mostly bad recent retro-Westerns that look like bad TV movies and safe releases since the 1980s, shocking all over again. Huston proved he could direct as good as anyone and Newman reenforced his dual success as one of the biggest box office draws and lead actors anywhere in the world.

Besides looking realistic, you get an amazing supporting cast including Tab Hunter, Jacqueline Bisset, Anthony Perkins, Stacy Keach, Roddy McDowall, Anthony Zerbe, Richard Farnsworth, Ned Beatty, Jack Colvin, a young Victoria Principal and Ava Gardner. Now THAT'S a cast!

Last and rather least is Australian comedy actor Yahoo Serious' second film, the self-directed comedy Reckless Kelly (1993) his second big film picked up by Warner Bros. in part because of Paramount's Crocodile Dundee success and in part because the U.S. has always had an Aussie Mania going for it. Warner, the studio that landed up picking up all the Mad Max sequels to date, first picked up and amusingly promoted Serious' feature film debut, Young Einstein (1988) remembered more for his wacky ultra-red hair (David Bowie and Annie Lennox had nothing to worry about) than any jokes or box office. The film did make money, yet this next film took a good few years to finish.

This time, he plays the surviving member of an outlaw gang (the title referencing Australian criminal legend Ned Kelly) still robbing banks, but one man (Hugo Weaving) foils him so badly, Kelly goes to the U.S. hoping to improve his bank robbing gains. This includes Las vegas, Hollywood and all the gaudiness lands up throwing him off track in unexpected ways. Too bad the script has no idea where to go, what to do or how to be funny.

That's a shame because there are some talented actors here including Alexei Sayle, a truly funny man who gets a good supporting role here and already was know for a hit TV show so funny, he was rightly being compared to no less than Benny Hill. Like some of Hill's own feature film appearances, this script holds him back, but made me wish his TV show would hit DVD.

The biggest problem is that Serious just tries too hard when he could be funny without as much effort. He just stuffs too much into all this (a long 80 minutes) and actually keeps undermining anything that might be funny, Aussie humor notwithstanding. Now a curio of sorts if anyone knew about it, those 'seriously' interested might want to chance losing over an hour of their life to watch, but it is quickly forgotten despite potential in parts. Too bad.

As for playback performance, the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Judge looks nice and gritty, stylized and grainy as it I supposed to, well restored and even showing us how good it must have looked in 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints that would make its West all the more palpable and occasionally colorful. Director of Photography Richard Moore (Winning, WUSA, Wild In The Streets, Huston's Annie, Myra Breckinridge) is an underrated cameraman who delivered better than he got credit for, so you can see why both Huston and Newman liked to have him lensing their films. Thanks to this Blu-ray, you can see just how far he went to deliver a density that has aged excellently and few could do today.

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on the DVDs are not bad, with Seeker being one of the better HD shoots I've seen lately and it makes me wish this were on Blu-ray or 4K Blu-ray, with fine composition and good editing throughout. Kelly comes from 35mm material that needs some work, has some dirt on it and at least has decent color throughout, shot in real anamorphic 35mm Panavision.

As for sound, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on Judge shows its age, though the Maurice Jarre music score is a plus and Andy Williams gets one of his last big single song pushes with ''Marmalade, Molasses and Honey'' penned by Alan & Marilyn Bergman. Too bad this was not even simple stereo.

The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the Seeker DVD is dialogue-based as expected, has some music and is as good as it can be in this older codec. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Kelly has Pro Logic surrounds and was a Dolby analog theatrical release. The mix has some issues, but sound was supervised by the great Phil Judd (not the great one of of Split Enz, one of the greatest music bands of all time out of New Zealand, but long time film and music sound man) with a selection of songs. Some are odd cover tunes, but oh well. The credits imply that older Dolby A-type analog noise reduction was used, but like a few films at the time, it was eventually issued in the more advanced Dolby SR (Spectral Recording) system and I would actually be curious to hear this one in lossless sound to see if I am missing anything.

Extras in all three cases include the Original Theatrical Trailer, but Seeker adds a Making Of featurette.

To order either the The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean Blu-ray and/or Reckless Kelly DVD, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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