DVD Review HTF REVIEW: A Fish Called Wanda 2-Disc Collector's Edition

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Cameron Yee, Nov 19, 2006.

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  1. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    A Fish Called Wanda
    2-Disc Collector's Edition

    **With the exception of the artwork, this release appears identical to the one that was to be released by Sony back in August 2006.


    Release Date: November 21, 2006
    Studio: MGM Studios
    Year: 1988
    Rating: R
    Running Time: 1h48m
    Video: 1.85:1 anamorphic
    Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Surround, English (Original Mono), French Dolby Surround, Spanish Mono
    Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
    TV-Generated Closed Captions: English
    Menus: Animated
    Packaging/Materials: Single-disc keepcase with cardstock slipcover; eight-page character and trivia booklet
    MSRP: $26.98



    The Feature: 4/5
    A $20 million dollar jewelry heist goes off without a hitch until the thieves have to divide up the loot. Georges (Tom Georgeson), the ringleader, relocates the stash before his lover Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her so-called brother Otto (Kevin Kline) can flee the country with it. But unbeknownst to Georges, Wanda and Otto are the reason he's sitting in a police cell, which in turn leads to accomplice and animal lover Ken (Michael Palin) going on a mission to eliminate the key witness placing Georges at the scene of the crime. Still hoping to get away with the loot, Wanda and Otto work on finding out its location, believing Georges's barrister Archie (John Cleese) will be the first to hear that crucial piece of information. So with that, all the pieces are in place for a farce of the highest order and one to ultimately gross $200 million worldwide.


    Video Quality: 2.5/5
    Overall this is not a great transfer, though the film finally gets anamorphic treatment. Given the film's age, the dust and dirt specks and scratches visible throughout are forgiveable; the ever-present mosquito/compression noise, however, is not and is ultimately the transfer's biggest problem. The contrast range is decent however, with colors having the muted quality typical of films from the 1980s. Flesh tones could be better though, often having a pinkish hue. Edge enhancement is visible, though mild, and while the image is generally sharp, there are a few instances of softness, even in close-ups.


    Audio Quality: 3/5
    The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is largely center and front channel dominant, with surround activity and LFE effectively absent. The dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible, though sounding at times hollow and strained. The original mono soundtrack doesn't provide anything appreciably different, though purists may find it preferable on principle alone.


    Special Features (Disc One): 3/5

    Audio Commentary with John Cleese: Cleese provides plenty of background information, anecdotes and opinion about the production and the script. Though not a particularly "talky" track, Cleese keeps things moving and engaging.

    Trivia Track: Bits of trivia pop up throughout the film. The content ranges from behind-the-scenes production information to biographical data on the cast and crew. The large blocks of text superimposed over the picture ultimately are more annoying than informative though.


    Special Features (Disc Two): 4/5

    Deleted Scenes and Alternate Scenes with Introductions by John Cleese (29m37s): The DVD producers put a little extra effort into this special features staple by approaching it as a featurette, editing the scenes together with Cleese interview footage. This gives it a more cohesive, even professional, feel that is usually lacking in the list approach to deleted/alternate scenes. Each scene can also be accessed individually.

    "John Cleese's First Farewell Performance" (18m11s) Featurette: 1987 television news piece produced by Iain Johnstone, interviewing the "Wanda" cast and crew, with Cleese being the focal point. This is a great artifact considering DVD special features were not a consideration at the time.

    "Farewell Featurette: John Cleese" (29m51s): Johnstone returns with his crew to focus on the comedy of the film and its actors. Another great artifact, with Cleese apparently considering a break from show business.

    Kulture Vulture (16m30s): An episode of British TV series "On Location" takes a look at the various locations used in the film, though the piece winds up being more of a synopsis of the film. The "Kulture Vulture" title comes from the production company that produced the piece - a puzzling decision. (1.78:1 anamorphic)

    Images Gallery (14m26s): Slide shows cover key stills (images used in press kits), behind the scenes, images from deleted scenes, the stars and publicity materials. Viewers have a "View All" option along with access to individual slide shows.

    Original Theatrical Trailer (1m28s): 1.85 anamorphic

    "Something Fishy" Documentary (30m30s): 2003 retrospective, interviewing all members of the cast and surviving members of the crew. The documentary has some deleted scenes that weren't included in the deleted scenes section, as well as bloopers in the closing credits.

    "A Message from John Cleese" (4m56s): Promotional artifact with Cleese talking up the film as a "love story but a really mean one," apparently meant for American audiences.

    Previews: "The Pink Panther" (2006), "The Princess Bride" Special Edition DVD, "Casino Royale" (1967), "Monty Pyton and the Holy Grail" DVD. The preview for "The Princess Bride" is puzzling since it's for an older edition, suggesting the DVD has been in a holding pattern longer than the few months it took for distribution to change hands from Sony to Fox.


    Recap and Final Thoughts

    The Feature: 4/5
    Video Quality: 2.5/5
    Audio Quality: 3/5
    Special Features: 4.5/5
    Overall Score (not an average): 4/5

    Despite the transfer's problems, this is a no-brainer upgrade for owners of the previous non-anamorphic release. The special features are also a cut above the usual fare for a film of this era and should please "Wanda" fans and fans of Cleese especially.



    Equipment: Toshiba 42" CRT RPTV fed a 1080i signal from an Oppo DV-971 DVD player. Audio evaluation is based on an Onkyo TX-SR575x 5.1 AVR running JBL S26 mains and surrounds, JBL S-Center, and BFD-equalized SVS 20-39 PCi subwoofer.
     
  2. Yumbo

    Yumbo Cinematographer

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    Priceeeey, eh?
     
  3. Demis G

    Demis G Second Unit

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    nah.. me thinks the price iz ok
     
  4. Ron Reda

    Ron Reda Cinematographer

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    It's finally nice to see this film in it's correct aspect ratio. I don't think I ever have seen it like that. And, it's finally anamorphic! I didn't care that the transfer wasn't 100% clean...I still enjoyed this DVD.
     
  5. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    There is at least one easter egg on disc 2: an outtake from the 2003 documentary in which Jamie Lee Curtis takes a cell phone call from her husband. Trouble is, I can't rememberwhere I found it. All I recall is that moving around one of the menus illuminated an image of Wanda's treasure chest, and I hit enter.

    EDIT: It's at the bottom of the Special Features screen, and it's actually the necklace that's illuminated.

    M.
     
  6. Jeffrey Nelson

    Jeffrey Nelson Screenwriter

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    This sounds great, except that I lament the absence of Cleese's hilarious Schweppes ad that accompanied the original VHS release.
     
  7. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Two more easter eggs, both of them deleted scenes: The first is on the first screen of deleted scenes, and the second is at the bottom of the page with still galleries. One involves highlighting the image of a key in the fish food, and the other an image of the doomed dogs.

    The one item I really wish had been included was a promo featurette made at the time of the film's release. I don't know whether it was made for HBO, but that's where I saw it. It featured mock interviews with Cleese, Curtis, Klein and the producer, intercut to show them disagreeing with each other. Among other things, Klein claimed he was deceived into taking the part because he assumed that an offer from England involved a part in a Shakespeare play; Curtis claimed she edited the script to ensure an "R" rating so the kids would want to see it; and Cleese claimed they all had fun, to which Curtis replied: "As much fun as you can have in England without chemical assistance."

    Still, it's a great special edition, long overdue.

    M.
     

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