Stanley Donen’s 1967 production of Bedazzled takes the timeless tale of Faust and turns it into a piece that could only have come out of the 1960s. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore star, with Eleanor Bron in a supporting role.
The Production: 3.5/5
Stanley Moon (Dudley Moore) is a short order cook at a burger joint, hopelessly infatuated with the waitress Margaret (Eleanor Bron), but too shy and awkward to approach her. After another disappointing day at work, Moon decides to kill himself, but is so inept that he fails at that too. Enter George Spiggott (Peter Cook), aka the Devil. Spiggott wants to help Moon, and offers him seven wishes in exchange for his soul. Moon’s one true wish is to be with Margaret, and so he uses his wishes to try to gain the qualities in life that he thinks will allow Margaret to find him attractive. But by the end of the film, Moon will realize that you can’t just wish yourself into success.
Stanley Donen’s 1967 production of Bedazzled is, of course, a retelling of the Faust legend, which means that each time Moon comes up with a wish, Spiggott twists it around so that Moon has technically gotten what he’s asked for, but not what he’s wanted. Besides co-starring in the film, Cook also wrote the screenplay, which was conceived from the start to be a vehicle for himself and Moore, who was his comedy partner at the time.
And what a time! Some films transcend the times in which they are made, taking a specific time and place and using that to explore a universal feeling which can be applied to any circumstance at any point. And then there’s Bedazzled, which is clearly an artifact of the mid-to-late 1960s, with everything that entails, from the costumes, dialect, type of humor, and even the score (which Moore himself contributed). There is not a single moment in this film in which the viewer can possibly forget that. But while the film is clearly a product of a very specific moment in time, that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
What might be less satisfying to a more modern audience is how slight the film’s story seems. Cook and Moore, at the time of the film’s production, were best known for their sketch comedy routines, and the film can feel like an extended episode of a variety show. Each of the “wish” sequences, in and of themselves, are entertaining, often satirizing a particular fad of the time or cultural tradition, and each is a source of amusement. But the individual moments don’t add up to more than the sum of the parts, and the film becomes an exercise of watching Moon go through the same experience again and again: he’ll make a wish hoping that he will end up with Margaret, the wish will be granted, but an unanticipated string attached (courtesy of Spiggott) ensures that Moon won’t actually succeed at getting the thing he most desires.
Raquel Welch appears in a cameo-sized role as Spiggott’s assistant “Lust,” but the importance of her appearance is seriously overhyped in the film’s promotional materials.
3D Rating: NA
Bedazzled (or, as the cover art would have it, Stanley Donen’s Bedazzled) is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The image is stable and, for the most part, clear of dirt, debris and other age related artifacts. Color and contrast appear accurate for the period, and film grain is present without being obtrusive. There is a slight bit of damage that occasionally appears, most notably during a sequence with Cook and Moore repairing some telephone lines, but this appears to have been part of the film since its production and not an issue with the transfer; at any rate, it’s extremely minor and not at all disruptive to the film’s content.
There are two audio options on the disc, both presented in the lossless DTS-HD MA format. The preferred option is the film’s original mono track. Dialogue occasionally has a slightly harsh, almost heavy quality to it, but is still easy enough to discern; the mix is otherwise enjoyable. Also included is a 2.0 stereo track that appears to be one of those fake stereo remixes that Fox had prepared for an earlier home video release; the 2.0 track has minimal separation and sounds slightly weak when compared to the mono.
Special Features: 3/5
Isolated Music & Effects Track – Dudley Moore’s original score is presented in DTS-HD MA stereo along with the film’s effects track.
Peter Cook & Dudley Moore on The Paul Ryan Show (5:25, SD) – This brief undated black and white interview clip has the two stars sitting together with host Paul Ryan.
A Bedazzled Conversation with Harold Ramis (6:18, SD) – Ramis, the director of the 2000 remake of Bedazzled, discusses the importance and history of Cook and Moore’s comedy.
Original Theatrical Trailer #1 (2:49, SD) – This trailer has been cropped to 16×9 and uses humor to promote the film.
Original Theatrical Trailer #2 (2:49, SD) – This trailer is presented in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio and is almost identical to the first.
Booklet – Julie Kirgo’s insightful essay is included along with production stills and original poster art.
Stanley Donen’s Bedazzled is more of a series of sketches sharing a common theme than an actual film, but writer/co-star Peter Cook and co-star/composer Dudley Moore make a great screen duo, and their chemistry and humor are the best part of this very 1960s comedy. Twilight Time has assembled a high quality package here, carrying over the extras from the DVD release while adding a music and effects track.
There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested in purchasing it should go to either www.twilighttimemovies.com or www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.