- Jul 6, 2003
Film Length: 116 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Letterboxed Widescreen (1.85:1)
Subtitles: English, French and Spanish
Audio: English - Monaural
July 6th, 2004
The late Jack Lemmon’s directorial debut, Kotch, is a charming film highlighted by an Oscar®-nominated performance by his friend and frequent co-star, Walter Matthau. In the film, Matthau, who is also no longer with us :frowning: plays Joseph P. Kotcher, a grumpy and lonely (but not senile!) 72-year-old retiree living with his son Gerald (Charles Aidman) and daughter-in-law Wilma (Felicia Farr) in Southern California.
Unfortunately, this living arrangement is not entirely pleasant for the younger Kotchers, as “Kotch” has an irksome tendency to voice his opinions (often unfounded and unwanted) whenever he sees fit, carry conversations off on tangents, and frequently challenge his daughter-in-law’s authority. Obviously, the foul moods this puts Wilma in causes problems for Gerald, who tries valiantly to stick up for his dad. Conversely, when he is not getting on Wilma’s last nerve, Kotch spends his time showering affection on his baby grandson Duncan (played by Donald and Dean Kowalski).
Despite this, Wilma finds finds it increasingly difficult to deal with Kotch’s behavior, and eventually demands that Gerald place him in a retirement home. To begin the processes, they take the elder Kotcher to visit a nearby retirement village, but Wilma has already long since prepared for his departure by hiring a teenager girl named Erica Herzenstiel (Deborah Winters) to watch over Duncan. Things don’t turn out quite as planned though, as Erica is let go after Kotch catches her messing around with a boy inside the Kotcher home.
Understandably, Kotch is not thrilled at the prospect of living in a retirement home, and he decides to take off on a road trip to Northern California, with the hope that Wilma will cool off while he is away. Before heading out though, he decides to visit Erica, and offer an apology for the part he played in her dismissal. Little does he know that this short visit will change his life! You see, once Kotch tracks Erica down, he is shocked to find that she is pregnant, and will be dropping out of high school to stay with relatives until the child is born.
Feeling saddened by her situation, Kotch gives her a little money for the baby. Later, after she moves to Palm Springs, he ends up following suit, and once there, Kotch rents a house, takes her in, and provides emotional support for her during the pregnancy. She, in turn, provides companionship for the lonely old fellow. And as they spend more time together, the two unlikely friends discover that they really have a lot in common, especially their rebellious natures, which make staying on good terms with relatives difficult. Ironically, their friendship also brings about some significant changes in both of their personas, although I cannot be specific about this without spoiling the film’s ending.
For one reason or another, even though I am a fan of both Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, I have never gotten around to seeing Kotch before, and let me tell you, I have been missing out! I must be honest and say that it doesn’t quite have the place in my heart that the on-screen give and take between Lemmon and Matthau does, but I still found this movie to be a very endearing and enjoyable experience, enhanced by delightful performances by Walter Matthau and Deborah Winters!
After finally seeing Kotch, it is really hard to believe that Jack Lemmon never hopped into the director’s chair again, as he did a very fine job on this film for a “rookie”! In particular, Lemmon infused a lot of good humor into the story, paced it well, and effectively developed the characters. As a result, at the end of this unexpectedly wonderful journey the viewer is left with plenty of enjoyment at the way this sentimental story is wrapped up. This film is worth seeking out, especially if you enjoy watching Walter Matthau work!
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
MGM’s presentation of Kotch is a non-anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) one, so it doesn’t quite have the sharpness and resolution that it otherwise might, but the end result is not quite as bad as I was expecting it to be. To begin with, contrast is never a problem, and black levels are fairly stable, so shadow delineation is above average in all but a handful of very dimly lit scenes. The print is also a bit cleaner than one might expect from a 33-year-old film. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t look great, but there is no major print damage, only a moderate amount of grain and a few specks and scratches that pop up occasionally throughout the feature.
On the down side, colors are not rendered quite as well, as they exhibit the slightly faded look typical of films from the early 1970s, and flesh tones also appear to lean a little towards red. Neither is a major distraction, but it did warrant mentioning. Even more bothersome was the overall lack of fine detail, and the fair amount of video noise that would occasionally appear in solid, light-colored objects (especially noticeable on walls). Shimmering can also be observed during the opening credits, and a couple of very brief instances of aliasing are also evident, but neither issue was pervasive.
Clearly, the image does have its share of flaws, but it does not look too bad for a barebones catalog release of an older film. That being said, I do wish Kotch had been given an anamorphic transfer, and that the image was a bit sharper.
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
The soundtrack for Kotch is reproduced via a monaural Dolby Digital track that does a fair job of handling the source material. This is a very dialogue-heavy movie, so it pleases me to inform you that not only is dialogue clearly discernable at all times, but also free of distracting audio anomalies. The actor’s voices also sounded much more robust than I would have expected from a monaural presentation of an older film!
Further, not only was the soundtrack free of hissing, popping, and other distractions, but Marvin Hamlisch’s excellent score also sounded quite nice, as monaural tracks go. To be sure, it did not exhibit the highest fidelity, but even at a very high volume level (the wife wasn’t home ), the film’s music retained a fairly warm and pleasing sound, never becoming harsh, distorted, or otherwise fatiguing on the ears.
In a nutshell, this is a solid monaural track that does what it should do - allow the viewer/listener to focus on enjoying Kotch! Nice job!
There are no extras or promotional materials on this disc.
(on a five-point scale)
Movie: :star: :star: :star: :star: 1/2
Video: :star: :star: :star:
Audio: :star: :star: :star: :star:
Overall: :star: :star: :star:
THE LAST WORD
Kotch is probably not the best known Lemmon-Matthau collaboration, but it certainly is a good one! With his directorial debut, Mr. Lemmon proved that he could take care of business behind the camera as well as in front of it, and crafted a heartwarming film about an unlikely friendship changing the lives of two very different people. The film also benefits immensely from the presence of Walter Matthau and Deborah Winters, both of whom are phenomenal in their roles!
As far as presentation goes, this DVD is as basic as it gets, with static menus and absolutely no extras. Even promotional materials are absent! Still, even though the overall DVD presentation may leave something to be desired, the reason to spin this disc is for the movie, which tells a very fine story that should leave most of its viewers feeling good at its conclusion. How many motion pictures can you honestly say that about? If you have yet to see Kotch, please do give it your consideration for a rental (at least)…you might be pleasantly surprised!