Symbiotic cinematic relationships between actors and directors have been occurring since the days of silent movies, and many great teams have turned out some of cinema’s most memorable, one-of-a-kind creations. One such collaboration is director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro who had combined their efforts for four highly unusual and electrifying works before they came together on their fifth joint effort The King of Comedy. A black comedy with a concentration on the fridge element of show business fanatics who live vicariously through the star power of their objectified victims, the movie offers a queasy, unsettling look into that kind of off-kilter craziness and features a De Niro performance unlike anything he had acted up until that time.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono), Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), Spanish 1.0 PCM (Mono), Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Other
Run Time: 1 Hr. 49 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 03/25/2014
Star watcher Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) has been studying the ascent of comic talkshow host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) for so many years that he’s sure he could make it as a comic if Jerry would only give him a chance to perform on his show. Insinuating himself into Jerry’s life through any means necessary at first gets him slight recognition of his presence (enough to convince the deluded Rupert that Jerry is a personal pal), but further persistence in trying to score a debut date on his show gets Rupert ejected from the studio building and pretty much branded as a crackpot. But Rupert has a plan to get his shot on national television which involves kidnapping and ransom: the safe return of Langford for a guaranteed lead-off spot on the show.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
Paul D. Zimmerman’s script gives us a tremendous view of the deluded life and times of Rupert Pupkin including a couple of visits to his basement “studio set” with cut-out figures of Jerry and guest Liza Minnelli to converse with in order to hone his craft (there’s even an audience wall mural for Rupert’s rehearsals) between continual caterwauling upstairs from his mother in whose house he’s squatting. We see him take a few common courtesies from Langford and turn them into a budding close relationship and recoil through covetous arguments with his equally demented crony Masha (Sandra Bernhard) and even to his outrageously inviting himself and his girl friend (Diahnne Abbott) to a weekend stay at Langford’s country home while the poor servants try to understand how someone could be so brash and bold to do this. Director Martin Scorsese pushes us into the midst of the fan mayhem that star worshippers generate, segues unbelievably smoothly in and out of Rupert’s imaginative fantasies where he’s a big star on equal terms with Jerry, and stages one of the most ghoulishly maniacal seduction dinners ever between Langford and the unbalanced Masha who is so unpredictable that one is never quite sure what her next move might be, upping the cringe quotient exponentially. And, of course, he allows us finally to see the result of all this planning: Pupkin’s actual comic monologue at the end of the film before pulling out all the black comic elements to leave us with a most ironic conclusion.
After playing different types of driven, troubled individuals in previous Scorsese collaborations like Taxi Driver, New York New York, and Raging Bull, Robert De Niro’s Rupert Pupkin is one for the books: the kind of monomaniacal individual who wonders if you want him to leave after he’s been kicked on his backside out the door. He effects a lighter, feyer tone of voice and a non-combative but highly confrontational approach to life that is the antithesis of his Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull. There really isn’t anything else similar to this in the entire De Niro filmography, and he's great. Jerry Lewis, though playing a comic talkshow host like Johnny Carson, gives a straight, legitimate dramatic performance dealing with these assorted wackos and miscreants with finesse and more patience than one might expect. Sandra Bernhard’s introduction to films is a wild improvisational spin on a real nutcase who might kiss you or kill you in the heat of the moment. Diahnne Abbott gives a good, solid performance as Rupert’s object of affection (the two stars were married in real life for a time), and Shelley Hack is excellent as the production assistant tasked with dealing with the persistent Rupert.
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is very good in all but the video segments (lousy resolution as they had to be for realism’s sake), and color is rather rich throughout. But the film has a darker appearance than one’s memory of the theatrical presentation which results in shadow detail that is sometimes crushed. There aren’t any age-related specks or scratches, but the film does seem unnecessarily somber with the slight overuse of darkness. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix replicates the mono audio of the original presentation. Dialogue has been excellently recorded and is never compromised by the Robbie Robertson music or the ambient sound effects. There is no problematic hiss, crackle, or flutter that give away the age of these aural elements.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Deleted/Extended Scenes (37:59, SD): eight deleted or extended sequences are provided. They may be played individually or in one lengthy montage.
Special Features Rating: 3.5/5
Tribeca Film Festival Conversation (29:50, HD): director Maartin Scorsese and actors Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis (with a video greeting from Sandra Bernhard) share memories of making the film which was presented as the closing night attraction of the Tribeca Film Festival.
A Shot at the Top: The Making of The King of Comedy (18:57, SD): director Martin Scorsese and actress Sandra Bernhard separately relive memories of making the movie.
Theatrical Trailer (1:29, SD)
Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy is one of his most unusual films and yet one which, like many of his other movies, investigates people on the fringes of society with their own (sometimes screwy) hopes and dreams. While the timing has produced a film darker in look than it might have had at one time, the Blu-ray release has few other problems and includes some entertaining bonus material. Recommended!
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
Support HTF when you buy this title: