HTF REVIEW: "The King Of Comedy" (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Dec 5, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    The King Of Comedy

    Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
    Year: 1983
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 109 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Subtitles: English and Spanish

    "...the name is Rupert Pupkin....and I know
    the name doesn't mean much to you but it means
    an awful lot to me.."

    Start talking with a group of friends about some
    of the most memorable characters in motion picture
    History and you'll be surprised that amongst the
    Dirty Harry, James Bond and Indiana Jones
    replies you receive, you may find someone uttering
    the words "Rupert Pupkin." Yes, that's right...I
    said Rupert Pupkin, perhaps one of the most
    memorable characters that Martin Scorsese and Robert
    Deniro ever brought to the screen.
    Robert Deniro gives a fascinating and chilling
    performance as Rupert Pupkin, a deluded loser who
    dreams of being a stand-up comic. Rupert has a burning
    desire to become famous. Most of his time is spent
    seeking autographs amongst hundreds of other fans
    that hang outside of stage doors for their idols
    to appear. Rupert also likes to hang out at home
    in his basement pretending that he's hosting his own
    late-night show, complete with life-size cutouts of
    celebrity guests. His shows are often ruined by his
    Mother yelling downstairs asking him to keep it quiet.
    His fantasies are further egged on by Marsha, a
    whacked-out talk-show groupie (Sandra Bernhard).
    In an effort to try and further a career, he begins
    to stalk his idol, talk show host Jerry Langford,
    pleading with him to perform on the Jerry's show. When
    Langord gives Rupert the runaround, he enlists the aid
    of Marsha to kidnap the talk show host in hopes of
    finally getting to perform his stand-up routine.
    I never quite understood how The King Of Comedy
    has remained one of Scorsese's most unappreciated
    films. Frankly, it's one of his best. It's a black
    comedy that takes a serious look at the media obsessed
    world in which we all live in. The performances are
    absolutely top-notch all around. DeNiro is obnoxious
    and insane throughout, but we are led to believe that
    this is a common man in a culture obsessed with fame.
    Jerry Lewis is absolutely riveting to watch as a
    celebrity dealing with his fame both on-screen and
    off. The person you most need to watch is Sandra
    Bernhard who gives the most stunning performance of
    her career.
    How is the transfer?
    If memory serves me correct, this film was originally
    released on VHS under the Columbia Pictures label. The
    DVD packaging suggest that this was originally an
    Embassy Pictures release. The original trailer
    states this as a Twentieth Century Fox release. In
    any event, when I learned a year ago that Fox was
    obtaining this title, I was quite elated for the
    mere fact that I knew the studio would do the best
    possible transfer they could.
    With that in mind, I was only slightly disappointed
    in the overall transfer, and I'll admit up front that
    I was being nit picky only because this film is a
    favorite of mine. The film looks somewhat dated,
    which is to be expected. Flesh colors run a little
    red, and the picture is a little soft. So far, I have
    no problem with any of this. The print is in very
    good condition with just a few speckles of blemish
    scattered throughout. The day lit scenes in New
    York City look quite good with a nice clean image
    and no background noise. It's the darker scenes that
    suffer the most where there is a lot of film noise
    introduced. You'll see this noise in a scene at the
    beginning of the film where Rupert is sharing a limo
    with Jerry. A scene outside a restaurant with Rupert
    and Rita contains an awful amount of noise. Still,
    there are certain colors (mainly red and yellow) that
    manage to peak out and grab your attention such as
    Rupert's tie and handkerchief and Rita's deep red
    shirt. Red is a dominant color in this film, and
    unfortunately, sometimes it gives off a lot of noise.
    It may sound like I am giving this transfer a bad
    rap. Actually, this is probably the best the film
    has looked on any format to date. I just expected
    it, as a fan, to look slightly better than it does.
    Under the circumstances, I think Fox did a very
    good job with the source material they had.
    The stereo sound is quite acceptable. It was very
    nice to hear some bass-heavy sounds of Ray Charles
    playing through the opening credits. There is never
    really a distinct sense of stereo separation here, but
    the audio remains very clear with fairly nice dynamics.
    Special Features
    Let me begin by talking about the clever shadowbox
    Menu structure that Fox has put together for this
    DVD. Do yourself a favor and toggle between the
    Main Menu and Language Menu to watch the 3D angle
    change. You'll see another swift angle change as
    you switch to the Special Features area. It's a nice
    added touch that adds a significant amount of flavor
    to this overall package.
    What you may first find to be a bit disappointing
    is the exclusion of any sort of commentary. It had
    been rumored that Scorsese was interested in doing
    such a commentary, but with his hands full at the
    moment with Gangs Of New York, this may have
    been an impossibility.
    With the above in mind, it's at least kind of neat
    to see the inclusion of a wonderfully produced, brand
    new featurette, A Shot at the top: The making of
    The King of Comedy. It begins with director
    Martin Scoresese talking about how obsessed we can
    become with celebrities, giving more attributes
    to the person than they probably give out on the
    screen. It's very easy to lose yourself in these
    people. Sandra Bernhard talks about coming to this
    film with no prior acting experience, working on
    pure adrenaline. She also fondly talks about
    Robert DeNiro, and what a change of pace it was
    for this actor to shed his macho image and play
    the nerdy character of Pupkin. Bernhard is not
    shy to point out that she thinks Scorsese was
    turned on by the fact that her character was just
    as audacious as his male characters. What is very
    sad to hear is Scorsese and Bernhard talk about the
    reaction to the film by critics, summizing that this
    was one of the last great films about our culture.
    While there's no behind-the-scenes material to be
    seen anywhere here, this featurette stands on its own
    merits as being wonderful time spent with a director
    and actress who take us through their favorite
    moments and recollections of this great film.
    (length: approx. 18 minutes)
    I was thrilled to find the inclusion of two
    deleted scenes. The first is a very short
    sequence featuring Jerry walking down a NY street,
    stopping at a corner, and getting into a conversation
    with a husband and wife who thank him for sprucing
    up their sex life. The second sequence is a real
    treat for fans -- it's the originally filmed,
    full-length Jerry Langford monologue that we only
    see short snippets of at the beginning of the film.
    The monologue runs on for just over 5 minutes, and
    it's just Jerry spewing out shtick in front of his
    TV audience.
    A still gallery contains nearly 35 candid
    images of the cast and director. Using your remote,
    you can leisurely browse through this terrific
    assortment of photos.
    Finally, in addition to the film's original
    theatrical trailer, there's a short Canadian
    TV Spot.
    Final Thoughts
    The King Of Comedy is one of those gems that
    I am hoping will be rediscovered with the DVD format.
    I would dare say that this is one of the best films
    ever made -- a pure delight to watch. It's very nice
    to see that Fox has put together a package that will
    delight fans and interest newcomers. If you have
    never seen this film before, you need to.
    Don't miss it!
    Release Date: December 17, 2002
  2. Tommy G

    Tommy G Screenwriter

    Sep 19, 2000
    Likes Received:
    Thanks for the review Ron. This is a sure buy for me and I haven't seen it since it was released on cable (HBO I think)in 1984 so it will be like seeing it for the first time. I can't wait. December is beginning to rival November as far as being tough on the pocketbook.
  3. JoeyPalmiotti

    Nov 23, 2002
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    My dad says I would love this and with this review I can't wait! Thanks [​IMG]
  4. Rain

    Rain Producer

    Mar 21, 2001
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  5. Kurt N

    Kurt N Stunt Coordinator

    Feb 2, 2001
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    I'm not sure why I've mever seen this film--it's always sounded interesting to me.

    This will be mine.

    Thanks for another great review.
  6. rhett

    rhett Supporting Actor

    May 11, 2001
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    Great review Ron, I am really glad you like this movie, as I too believe it is one of Scorsese's best. I'd also consider De Niro's performance in the film one of his best as well, he sure had balls to play such an obnoxious and nerdy character.

    I can't wait to pick this one up!
  7. Mark Bendiksen

    Mark Bendiksen Screenwriter

    Mar 16, 1999
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    Ah...the long wait is at last almost over! You can keep your Attack of the Clones and your Men in Black II; give me Rupert Pupkin!
    December 17th is going to be one expensive day for me.
  8. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

    Apr 15, 2002
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    I have never seen this before, so I think I am going to be pleasantly surprised like all other DeNiro / Scorsese films, consider this one bought.
    Thanks again Ron
  9. Dave Scarpa

    Dave Scarpa Producer

    Apr 8, 1999
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    Real Name:
    David Scarpa
    Hey Ron thanks for the review. I already have my copy on order since this is just the type of catalog release you probably won't find at any B&M on release day. Hey for $12.99 I can live with a slightly dated transfer it's 16x9 !
    This and After Hours are two of my favorite films Glad to see they are finally releasing it. And while I appreciate the inclusion of commentaries they should not hold up a release if not available. Can't wait to rediscover Rupert !
  10. Jeff Adkins

    Jeff Adkins Screenwriter

    Sep 18, 1998
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    Real Name:
    Jeff Adkins
  11. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

    Dec 11, 2000
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    Ron, thanks for the review. This is one of my most-wanted releases. [​IMG]
    "Now, how can we listen to you
    When we know that your talk is cheap
    How can we never question
    Why we give more and you keep
    How can your empty laughter
    Fill a room like ours with joy
    When you're only playing with us
    As a child does with a toy
    How can we ever feel the freedom
    Or the flame lit by the spark
    How can we ever come out even
    When reality is stark
    That was a wonderful remark
    I had my eyes closed in the dark
    I sighed a million sighs
    I told a million lies to myself, to myself...

    - Van Morrison, from The King of Comedy
  12. AndyW

    AndyW Agent

    Dec 27, 2001
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    I can't wait. This has always been one of my favorites.
  13. Ron Kaye

    Ron Kaye Agent

    Nov 21, 2002
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    Be warned, this film is a VERY dark comedy more in line with Scorsese's "After Hours' than anything else he's done.

    Appreciated the film. Great talent involved. Didnt necessarily like it. Not an easy one to sit thru the 1st time around.

    If you've never seen it, I'd rent it first ...
  14. Mark Edward Heuck

    Mark Edward Heuck Screenwriter

    Jul 25, 2000
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    Jeff's trajectory is only partly correct.

    The original copyright on the former Columbia Pictures Home Video release is Embassy International Pictures, which was not the former Avco Embassy that got fused into Nelson Entertainment, but the former company of producer Arnon Milchan before founding Regency Enterprises. You will find the "Embassy International" copyright on other early Milchan productions like ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, BRAZIL and LEGEND.

    Ironically, 20th Century Fox was the original theatrical distributor for THE KING OF COMEDY, but Milchan chose to keep the home video rights and sold them to Columbia. Later, when Milchan set up Regency at Warner Bros., he took the movie with him and that's how it ended up on their label for years. I had been under the erroneous belief that they bought the movie full out, but when Milchan moved Regency to Fox, again the movie went with him. Thus, THE KING OF COMEDY has done a full studio circle.

    Glad to hear that the DVD does Scorsese justice. I just hope that perhaps this can get licensed out for the Scorsese box set of my dreams that WB will no doubt be planning to coincide with the video release of GANGS OF NEW YORK.
  15. Jeff Koch

    Jeff Koch Stunt Coordinator

    Jan 18, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Great reveiw Ron. This is my favorite Scorsese
    film. I saw it back in 1983 and loved every frame of it. This dvd is a must have!

  16. Evan Case

    Evan Case Screenwriter

    Jan 22, 2000
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    Excellent film. Not the pinnacle of all things Scorsese, IMO, but good Scorsese beats excellent almost anyone else. Great work by DeNiro and Lewis.
    Some extra laughs for me personally because his standup routine contains some cracks about my mom's hometown of Clifton, NJ. I made sure to tell her to watch that part when it was on TCM. [​IMG]
  17. soop.spoon

    soop.spoon Supporting Actor

    Aug 24, 1998
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    Can't wait for the disc.

    It's a shame this is the only Jerry Lewis material we got on DVD in 2002.
  18. Robert_eb

    Robert_eb Supporting Actor

    Sep 14, 2001
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    This is one of my favorite Scorsese films (The Last Temptation Of Christ being my favorite) and I'm looking forward to seeing it again in all of it's oar beauty.
  19. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
  20. John Kilduff

    John Kilduff Screenwriter

    Oct 27, 2001
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    I saw this movie on TCM, and I loved it.

    It was darkly hilarious, and it really made you think. Sandra Bernhard's performance of "Come Rain Or Come Shine" to a tied-up Jerry Lewis has to be one of the most disturbing images of the 80s.


    John Kilduff...

    See if you can spot The Clash in this movie.

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