DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Prisoner Of Second Avenue.

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Mar 17, 2004.

  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    May 7, 2001
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    The Prisoner Of Second Avenue

    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1975
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 98 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Enhanced Widescreen
    Audio: DD Mono
    Color/B&W: Color
    Languages: English
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $19.98
    Package: Snap Case

    The Feature:
    As I’ve said before, just the thought of Jack Lemmon puts a smile on my face and in my opinion he’s one of the greatest actors to have ever stepped in front of the camera. On March 30th, Warner Brothers will release yet another Jack Lemmon gem, The Prisoner Of Second Avenue. Produced and directed by Melvin Frank, The Prisoner Of Second Avenue is based on the Neil Simon play and stars Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft.

    Mel Edison (played by a disheveled looking Jack Lemmon) is a forty eight year old business man who loses his job due to corporate cutbacks. He is neurotic and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, feeling that everything around him is caving in, including the daily frustrations of New York City living. Just after he loses his job, he returns to his apartment to find it’s been cleaned out. Burglars have cleaned out the apartment taking everything from their television set to all of Mel’s suits and his favorite brown suede shoes.

    Growing frustrated with her husband’s spiraling depression, Edna (played by Anne Bancroft in her best role since The Miracle Worker), decides to find work and give Mel some much needed time alone. All this proves to do is make matters worse, causing Mel to resent his wife for being the sole breadwinner and pine away during her daily absences.

    Miserable and tormented, Mel hits rock bottom and winds up in therapy. Meanwhile, their financial stability has also come to an end, since Edna has lost her new job due to the company’s closure. Through love and commitment, the two are able to support each other during their times of need.

    Though it should come as no surprise, Lemmon displays a broad range of emotions, very convincingly in a role that isn’t quite as comedic as we’re used to seeing the great actor portray. In fact both Lemmon and Bancroft do a superlative job in balancing the comedic role with the serious dramatic one. In a role that’s somewhat of a lighter version, you’ll see similarities between this film and a previous film, The Out-Of-Towners as George Kellerman who again wants to take on the world due to a New York business trip that goes abysmally wrong.

    Though the film wasn't a hit, nor was it well received critically, there’s no denying that Lemmon’s portrayal of a man suffering a nervous breakdown was Oscar worthy. Unfortunately, he was ignored by the Academy, as was Anne Bancroft who was equally deserving of at least a nomination. The other highlight to this wonderful film is a magnificent score by Marvin Hamlisch which is one of his best!

    The 70’s weren’t kind to many things including furniture, hair styles, clothing and sometimes even film. However, such is not the case with The Prisoner Of Second Avenue as it looks pretty darn good. Sure, it has that 70’s look to it, but for the most part, I was quite pleased with this presentation.

    While blacks looked better than average, whites were contrasted nicely and showed up stark and crisp. Colors were for the most part, rather vibrant and nicely saturated and never bleeding. Skin tones were, for the most part accurate although it seemed as though Lemmon’s tones were quite often reddish in appearance.

    The level of image detail was somewhat inconsistent but again moderately sharp for the entire film. Typical of films from an even older vintage, it seemed as though close-ups of Bancroft were a tad on the soft side while Lemmon’s were sharper. There was very little grain present and although film dirt and scratches were at times noticeable, they weren’t overly bothersome.

    There were also infrequent bouts of light shimmer and occasional light speckle but again, these were infrequent and never bothersome. As for artifacting or haloing, I didn’t notice any problems to speak of.

    For the most part a very nice presentation for this 70’s film.

    Not much to speak of in terms of the audio presentation. The track is the original Mono track and does little more than it needs to in the mostly dialogue driven film.

    Dialogue was always exceptionally clear and always rock solid, nor were there any signs of hiss or crackling. I had an interesting little audio dropout at the 67 minute mark but it didn’t seem to last for more than a few seconds.

    Unfortunately the track is somewhat thin but it still allowed the beautiful Marvin Hamlisch score to shine through and elicit the perfect mood for the film.

    As good as we would expect.

    Special Features:
    There are three special features located on this disc. They are:
    [*] Anne Bancroft On Dinah is a guest appearance on the Dinah Shore show to plug the film for it’s then, upcoming release. Other than the two comparing their wardrobe and jewelry, there’s very little gleaned from this interview. Dinah however, does show a clip of 6 or 7 blooper lines from the film. Duration: 7:40 minutes.
    [*] Up next is the Making Of The Prisoner Of Second Avenue, which is just that. We get brief comments from Lemmon and Bancroft as well as several behind the scenes look at the production. Also included are more flubbed lines. Duration: 5:52 minutes.
    [*] Lastly, the Theatrical Trailer is included and is in rather rough shape.

    Final Thoughts:
    Unfortunately, I fear this wonderful film will fly under the radar of most film buffs and DVD collectors. Not only is it a terrific character study, it’s an homage to the strength of a perfect marriage who lend support to each other during their times in need.

    With performances from the great Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft that are exceptional, coupled with a presentation that’s darn near perfect, fans should consider this as a purchase in the weeks to come.


    Release Date: March 30th, 2004
  2. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    Folks.....this is a film worth seeing! It was
    the film that made me a Jack Lemmon fan for life.

    Tuesday March 30th is a great day for Warner comedies.
    It just so happens that The Prisoner of Second
    and The Sunshine Boys are amongst
    my top 8 favorite comedies of all time. I have been
    pushing Warner to release both these films for the
    past few years. You can imagine the patience I had
    to endure in awaiting these releases.

    Neither of these films break any barriers as far
    as being amongst the funniest comedies ever made.
    They do have a special place in my heart for being
    the most enjoyable comedies I had seen as a kid.

    It's painful to have to read this review as I wish
    I had copies of these films in my hand right now.
    Though I have waited years for Warner to get these
    out on DVD, the next 13 days before release date
    will probably be the longest wait yet.

    By the way. In case you want to know....

    My Top 8 comedies (in no particular order)

    Blazing Saddles
    National Lampoon's Animal House
    Bachelor Party
    Ferris Beuller's Day Off
    The Prisoner of Second Avenue
    The Sunshine Boys
    Take The Money And Run
    Top Secret
  3. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

    May 8, 2000
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    Excellent film. Glad Warner is finally getting this out. I can't wait.

    Thanks for the review, Herb.

  4. Louis_P

    Louis_P Stunt Coordinator

    Nov 18, 2002
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    That small cameo of Sylvester Stallone is so funny!! This is one of my favorite Jack Lemmon flick's[​IMG]
  5. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

    Jul 19, 2002
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    great review Herb!
    nothing much to add except to echo the other comments-
    this is a MARVELOUS film- and i'm glad Herb pointed out Hamlischs score- the main theme has been going thru my head the last few days.
    i'm going to be on pins and needles until i can see this (which won't be unitl mid April as i'm on the road now).
    as far as i'm concerned the 30th batch of Warner 'senior' comedies are all worth owning.
    i've never seen The Late Show- but have heard nothing but praise for it down thru the years, but Going In Style is a real gem as is SB- and of course POSA is just a joy.
    i've been a huge fan of this film (and Lemmon) since i first saw it on HBO in the mid 70's.
    i was just a little kid (not even in double digits) and you wouldn't think a comedy about a middle aged man having a nervous breakdown would have much to interest a rug rat- but the humanity in Lemmons performance, the love between him and Bancroft...the film is one of the most underrated of the 70s- which was a decade already full of more than its share of great films.
    definitely do yourselves a favor and give this at least a rental if you haven't seen it yet.

    so glad to hear the disc is up to the WBs usual high standards!
  6. RobertSiegel

    RobertSiegel Screenwriter

    Mar 10, 2004
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    I have to agree with everyone, this is a great movie, funny, sad, beautifully acted and directed. Last month, it was either HDNET MOVIES or INHD ran this movie and the quality was stunning, it was in true HDTV, unfortunately, my HDTV tivo-like unit only holds about 15-20 hours of hdtv, and I don't yet have a HDTV vcr, so I will have to erase movies after I have viewed them (wow, this may prove difficult). This movie has always been on my top comedies list, along with Plaza Suite, Silent Movie, High Anxiety, and others.

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