-

Jump to content



Photo
DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: The Ritz



This topic has been archived. This means that you cannot reply to this topic.
9 replies to this topic

#1 of 10 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

Ken_McAlinden

    Producer

  • 6,070 posts
  • Join Date: Feb 20 2001
  • Real Name:Kenneth McAlinden
  • LocationLivonia, MI USA

Posted January 16 2008 - 04:07 AM

http://static.hometh...ers_1634608.jpg">
The Ritz

Directed By: Richard Lester

Starring: Jack Weston, Rita Moreno, Jerry Stiller, Kaye Ballard, F. Murray Abraham, Paul B. Price, Treat Williams

Studio: Warner Brothers

Year: 1976

Rated: R

Film Length: 91 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 16:9

Subtitles: English, French

Release Date: January 15, 2007

The Film

In Richard Lester's "The Ritz", screenwriter Terence McNally adapts his own award-winning Broadway farce about Gaetano Proclo (Weston), a Cleveland business man with mobster in-laws. While in New York with his wife, Vivian (Ballard), to visit his dying father-in-law, things take an unexpected turn resulting in Proclo having to hide out from Carmine Vespucci (Stiller), his homicidally inclined brother-in-law. Unfamiliar with New York, he asks his cab driver to take him to the last place on Earth that Vespucci would come looking for him and is directed to the all-male bathhouse known as The Ritz. His plans to lie low in his room quickly fall apart as a series of ever-escalating farcical misunderstandings (straight for gay, gay for straight, woman for transvestite, woman for man, brother-in-law for brother-in-law, garbage man for Broadway producer, etc.) result in Proclo crossing paths with some of the most colorful patrons of the Ritz including obsessive "chubby chaser" Claude Perkins (Price), good-hearted raging queen Chris (Abraham), thick-accented questionably-talented diva Googie Gomez (Moreno), and squeaky-voiced semi-clueless substitute detective Michael Brick (Williams).

The film is something of a funhouse mirror time capsule as the idea of setting a broadly comic farce in an all-male bathhouse would become unthinkable in the wake of the AIDS epidemic only a few years later. Farces by their very nature frequently trade in stereotypes, and The Ritz is no exception. That being said, the film manages to have its cake and eat it too by having such a broad array of gay characters surrounding the action that the most perverse and flamboyant characters appear as the eccentrics they are supposed to be rather than representatives of their entire subculture.

Lester maintains the appropriate light and frothy tone for the proceedings, pacing the gags as needed to keep the improbably escalating level of farcical misunderstandings afloat. Sexual content is kept discretely off camera, with the more ribald elements playing out via dialog and big take reaction shots from the cast. Lester's gifts for cinematically staging physical comedy are in full bloom and are integrated nicely with the largely verbal and character-based humor from the stage play. Aside from the prologue, the events of the film take place entirely in and around the titular bathhouse, but things never become visually dull.

The cast is uniformly excellent, retaining most of the key performers from the play's original run on Broadway including Weston, Stiller, Abraham, Price, and Moreno, who won a Tony award for her stage performance as Googie. Treat Williams plays the role of the naive detective with the nails on a chalkboard voice originated on the stage by Stephen Collins -- a piece of trivia all of you who have yet to get over the Everwood vs. Seventh Heaven cancellation controversy can use as you see fit. Sharp-eyed viewers will recognize Cliff Clavin himself, John Ratzenberger, in a small role as one of the bathhouse patrons.

The Video

The 16:9 enhanced video looks very film-like with a healthy but not excessive amount of natural grain. The credits are windowboxed to a 1.66:1 ratio, but the rest of the film fills the entire 16:9 enhanced frame. I did not notice any serious framing issues in the presentation, so I will not speculate about the original intended ratio. Color timing seems to emphasize the deeply saturated reds that are sprinkled throughout the costume and production design but sometimes results in skin tones that are a bit unnaturally rosy. This will be difficult for the average viewer to overlook considering the amount of time on-screen characters spend wearing only towels, robes, and wraps. Compression is good considering the amount of film grain being rendered and artifacts such as edge enhancement are nowhere to be seen.

The Audio

The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track is a solid presentation that is not asked to do much more than carry the film's fairly straightforward dialog-heavy mix. The bass tones may be rolled off a bit, but otherwise, there is not much to complain about.

The Extras

The only extra is the film's original theatrical trailer presented in 16:9 enhanced widescreen with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound.

Packaging

The film comes in a standard Amaray-style case with cover art derived from the film's orginal promotional art.

Summary

If you like your farce straight and your themes far from it, The Ritz is the film for you. Warner presents Richard Lester's multi-gag-a-minute adaptation of the Broadway show with a solid video transfer that may be tilted a bit towards the red end of the spectrum and decent if unremarkable mono audio.

Regards,

Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#2 of 10 OFFLINE   Rob W

Rob W

    Second Unit

  • 465 posts
  • Join Date: May 23 1999
  • Real Name:Robert
  • LocationToronto

Posted January 16 2008 - 12:13 PM

Warner has windowboxed the credits on a lot of their transfers that differs from the main feature's aspect ratio. All I can assume is that they are trying to avoid cutting off any credits, which makes no sense for The Ritz as all of the credits are so far into the frame they couldn't possibly be cut off on even the most misadjusted, overscanned monitor . Take a look at their Looney Tunes transfers - most of the main titles are also windowboxed while the cartoons themselves are correctly presented at 1:33.
At any rate, The Ritz is assuredly 1:85 as it was on the old laserdisc transfer, which did NOT have the titles changed to 1:66. This new disc is such a spectacular improvement in all other ways that fans should be delighted.

#3 of 10 OFFLINE   MarcoBiscotti

MarcoBiscotti

    Producer

  • 4,796 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 02 2003

Posted January 16 2008 - 10:12 PM

I ordered this from DVDPlanet last week and am looking forward to receiving it. I like a lot of Lester's early films, but from most of the reviews I've read, this one supposedly isn't that great. To be honest, it was mostly the great cover art that sold me on it.

#4 of 10 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

Ken_McAlinden

    Producer

  • 6,070 posts
  • Join Date: Feb 20 2001
  • Real Name:Kenneth McAlinden
  • LocationLivonia, MI USA

Posted January 17 2008 - 12:22 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarcoBiscotti
I ordered this from DVDPlanet last week and am looking forward to receiving it. I like a lot of Lester's early films, but from most of the reviews I've read, this one supposedly isn't that great. To be honest, it was mostly the great cover art that sold me on it.
I actually think this is one of Lester's better films. As play adaptations go, I think it is more successful than A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, although I like that one, too.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#5 of 10 ONLINE   Matt Hough

Matt Hough

    Executive Producer

  • 11,254 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 24 2006
  • LocationCharlotte, NC

Posted January 17 2008 - 01:15 AM

I think both THE RITZ and FORUM work far better as plays than as films, but I will certainly agree that THE RITZ is the better film. Lester's FORUM dropped too many of the stage version's songs (denying those characters much needed character and/or plot information), beefed up Phil Silvers' character to the detriment of the story, and lost the Proteans who added such charm and humor to the piece.

#6 of 10 OFFLINE   Rob W

Rob W

    Second Unit

  • 465 posts
  • Join Date: May 23 1999
  • Real Name:Robert
  • LocationToronto

Posted January 17 2008 - 12:04 PM

Funny that Marco was sold on the cover art. My only disappointment with this disc is they didn't use the Al Hirschfeld caricature drawings of the cast that graced the laserdisc jacket (as well as the alternate one-sheet for the film , if I'm not mistaken ).

#7 of 10 OFFLINE   MarcoBiscotti

MarcoBiscotti

    Producer

  • 4,796 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 02 2003

Posted January 17 2008 - 12:23 PM

Well I've never seen the film or the Hirschfeld poster art but being a fan of some of Lester's earlier 60's output and to use the common cliche, judging a book by it's cover: I was interested enough to throw in a pre-order.

#8 of 10 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

Ken_McAlinden

    Producer

  • 6,070 posts
  • Join Date: Feb 20 2001
  • Real Name:Kenneth McAlinden
  • LocationLivonia, MI USA

Posted January 17 2008 - 09:51 PM

The Hirschfeld art was used for the cover of the pressbook, but I have not seen a poster or lobby card that used it (It may exist, I just have not seen it). Aside from that, there were two poster designs used at the time, and Warner definitely used the better of those two for the DVD cover. Here are examples of the unused art over at the "Moviegoods" web site:

Press Book cover

Alternate poster art
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#9 of 10 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

Michael Reuben

    Studio Mogul

  • 21,769 posts
  • Join Date: Feb 12 1998

Posted January 18 2008 - 03:44 AM

Thanks for the review, Ken! You've got me interested, because this is one of Lester's that I've never seen. I was going to give it a miss, based on Forum (which is a hoot on stage but I've never been able to finish on film), but now I'll have to reconsider. I found myself laughing much longer and harder than I ever expected at the recent Broadway revival of The Ritz (with Rosie Perez stealing the show as Googie Gomez, much as I suspect Rita Moreno did). The play may be dated, but the construction is flawless, and with farce, construction is everything.

M.
COMPLETE list of my disc reviews.       HTF Rules / 200920102011 Film Lists

#10 of 10 OFFLINE   Rob W

Rob W

    Second Unit

  • 465 posts
  • Join Date: May 23 1999
  • Real Name:Robert
  • LocationToronto

Posted January 18 2008 - 11:17 AM

Michael, I also caught the recent Broadway revival after wondering for years how it worked as a play. Without spoiling anything for anyone, the film is one of the closest word-for-word recreations of a play I have ever seen , with the revival only straying from the original in the musical selections used in Googie's 'act'.

Getting back to the Hirschfeld art, I know it was used somewhere in the original campaign as I am old enough to have seen the film in a first-run theatre. Perhaps it was also used for the newspaper ads in certain markets ? The inside of the pressbook would solve that question as it would contain original newspaper ads of various sizes.