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THE NUTTY PROFESSOR: Friars Club Event Coverage and Boxed Set Review (1 Viewer)

Ronald Epstein

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The Nutty Professor 50th Anniversary
Blu-ray Boxed Set
-and-
Friars Club Event
by Ronald Epstein
June 2014

As I sit here and begin to write this Blu-ray review and talk about my experience last evening with Jerry Lewis at the infamous Friar's Club in New York city, I am finding myself still in a state of total elation. Growing up as a child, Jerry Lewis was my idol. I watched his films several times over -- and then some more -- through those childhood years and now as an adult. For me, Jerry Lewis is a comic mastermind who relied on the classic sight gags of the silent film era to keep his audiences howling in delight in film after film.
I will talk about my evening with Mr. Lewis (as well as provide some photos and videos) in just a few moments. First, I want to talk about Warner's new 4-disc release of The Nutty Professor that has just arrived in a deluxe boxed set edition filled with content personally compiled with the help of Mr. Lewis himself.

(Photo courtesy of HTF member Reed Grele)
Only 18 minutes into The Nutty Professor, and I was already laughing aloud at the multitude of sight gags that Lewis created for that film. From the first discovery of Professor Kelp beneath a door, or his attempts to balance himself with a thin booklet placed upon a sinking couch seat -- watching all of this unfold before you, one can't help but think of Lewis' genius of making audiences laugh without uttering a single word. The gags in this film are so brilliantly conceived and executed, that they are just as funny now as they were 51 years ago.

The Blu-ray transfer is quite nice, looking more detailed than ever before, though a bit on the soft side, with evidence of grain still intact. Listening to Mr. Lewis on the film's commentary (which I will talk about shortly), you find that he was very much in tune with the colors he wanted to use for the film. All of that beautiful technicolor imagery is vividly displayed throughout this transfer with excellent color permeation. In particular, I loved the motif used for "The Purple Pit" night club with its befittingly colored back wall that pops with intensity. It's no wonder that scene looks as good as it does, as Mr. Lewis used 5x the normal light output to enhance that purple color. In all, this is a rather satisfying Blu-ray experience, though for some reason it looks a tad compressed.

The Nutty Professor defaults to 5.1 DTS-MA audio, though there is the option to play it in mono. I found the 5.1 experience to be nothing more than passable. Dialogue and most of the film's effect elements are squarely delegated to the center channel while the fronts are more heavy with the music score, which seeps more silently through the rear channels. In no means was this mix considered to be an aggressively immersive listening experience.
For those of you, like myself, who have seen The Nutty Professor countless times, I would recommend watching this presentation with the accompanying lively commentary by Mr. Lewis and Steve Lawrence. There are no dull moments to be heard, as Mr. Lewis (prompted by Mr. Lawrence) gives detailed recollections of every scene and the aspects behind creating the comic moments and lensing it for the screen. He admits that the production department often didn't understand his jokes on paper, but Mr. Lewis readily admits he had it all planned out perfectly in his head and was able to translate it to them. In a scene that takes place in the gym early on in the film (look for a quick cameo of a young Richard "Jaws" Kiel), Jerry explains how a sight gag involving pulling ropes put him in the hospital for several hours, and for which he still suffers from pain today.


(Photo courtesy of HTF member Reed Grele)

When Warner Bros. initially announced the release of this boxed set last February, listing its included contents, members of Home Theater Forum almost unanimously came to the conclusion that this was the first "intelligent" boxed set offering from a studio known to pack cheap "trinkets" into similar ultra-expensive offerings. Here was a Collector's Edition truly designed with the collector in mind. If you are a fan of Jerry and this film, this is a treasure chest brimming with valuable content. I have had the opportunity to look through this content and would like to make some brief mentions of each...
* No Apologies is a brand-new HD feature that features live-audience content shot at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas, but more importantly, shows Jerry Lewis behind-the-scenes at work, discussing his partnership with Dean Martin, and talking in-depth about how The Nutty Professor was conceived and lensed. (approx. 20 minutes)
* The Nutty Professor: Perfecting the Formula seems to be SD content ported over from a previous release and features a very plump Jerry Lewis looking back on the film. It features some storyboards, bloopers and interview clips with Stella Stevens. (approx.15 minutes)
* Jerry Lewis At Work begins with one of Jerry's most iconic moments (heading up a boardroom) from The Errand Boy. Mr. Lewis explains how he joins the ranks of "greats" known to be the most difficult and demanding people to work for (with good reason). Author James Neibaur gives a history of Mr. Lewis at work, mostly concentrating on films, The Delicate Delinquent and Cinderfella. Most surprising for me was Jerry's idolizing of comic Stan Laurel, and how he attempted to bring him over as an comic editor for his film company. There are some rare home movies included in this documentary. (approx. 30 minutes)
* Various Deleted Scenes which include Professor Kelp picking bowling balls and mistakingly reaching for a kid's head (looks rather unconvincing) as well as a rather funny cameo sequence with Gary Lewis who gets ID'd by bartender Buddy Lester.
* Various Bloopers and TV Promo sequences with Jerry and Stella Stevens.
* Jerry at Movieland Wax Museum footage taken shortly after the release of the film, with commentary by Son Chris Lewis
* Early Screen tests of Jerry Lewis (in primitive Kelp makeup) and Del Moore, as well as an excised sequence of Kelp calling his father
* Original Film Trailer
* Cinderfella on DVD with Bloopers and commentary by Jerry Lewis and Steve Lawrence
* Errand Boy on DVD with Bloopers, Promo Spots, Theatrical Trailer and Select Scene Commentary by Jerry Lewis and Steve Lawrence

For the past day I have been listening to the audio CD of Phoney Phone Calls recorded by Jerry Lewis between 1952-1972. Many of these calls were staged by Mr. Lewis during down time between takes on various films he was doing. Others seem to have been done in front of a live audience. There are a total of 12 different tracks, and I think you'll be surprised by how funny and inventive (totally improved) these calls are.


Rounding out the wealth of extras in this boxed set are three publications. The first is a 48-Page Storybook book. Second, is a 44-Page Cutting Script complete with Jerry's personal notes. Lastly, you'll find the recreated "Being A Person" book. It's 96 pages of drawing and quotes inspired/written by Jerry Lewis and drawn by his personal illustrator. It was originally distributed to members of the cast of The Nutty Professor when the director heard of general conflicts among the crew.
The Paramount licensing deal with Warner Bros. has proven to be a huge benefit for collector's everywhere when treated with such a wonderful Collector's Edition as this one. No cheap trinkets. No box of junk. Simply one of the greatest comedies ever made and a wealth of intelligent material geared towards those of us that love Jerry Lewis and his work. This will probably be one of the best releases of the year.





The Friars Club Event 6/5/14
To repeat myself from the start of this article....Jerry Lewis is my childhood idol. It has been a life-long dream to personally meet Mr. Lewis and I always felt that dream would never be realized, given the fact that time was, perhaps, running out.

To have received a special invite from Warner Bros. to the Friars Club this week was that dream nearly coming true. To even step foot into the legendary Friars club, where so much comic history has taken place, was overwhelming enough. I was led up a long, elegant circular flight of stairs to the third floor where I entered a very small room with Jerry's special chair (which he bought himself as a gift for his 87th birthday) and a microphone. I was one of about a dozen people within this setting that would have the opportunity to photograph and interview Mr. Lewis.
I felt my heart seemingly stop at I looked to my side and saw Jerry being walked down the hall towards our room. "Oh my God, that's him!" immediately went through my mind. My childhood hero was a mere couple feet away from me, as he sat in his chair and addressed the line of photographers and press. Former CNN talk-show host, Larry King, was several steps behind.
We were told in advance that Jerry has difficulty with his hearing. That was apparent throughout our interview. However, it was also very clear that he was still sharp as a knife and had his wits about him.

Jerry Lewis: On The State of Comedy Today

Jerry Lewis: Phony Phone Calls

Jerry Lewis: On The Carol Burnett Show

Where Did You Get The Idea For The Nutty Professor?
(Ron Epstein asks question at 1:16 thanks to BroadwayShowBiz.com for footage)​
 

BarryR

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I'm envious as hell over the opportunity you got, but thanks big time for your remarks and video!
 

mongosito

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Got my boxset today and it's lovely .
I recently recorded a 2 hour documentary from the UK Sky Arts channel which was called "Method in the Madness of Jerry Lewis". A shame that wasn't included as I could only record it in SD even though it was broadcast in HD so a Blu version would have been nice.

The film looks delicious on Blu and I'm glad they retained the 5.1 remix.
 

Persianimmortal

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Thanks for the great write-up and videos. I really hope this The Nutty Professor release opens the floodgates on Jerry's movies being put out on Blu-ray. His work, both with Dean Martin and afterwards, really does deserve the full Blu treatment.
 

Ronald Epstein

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Persianimmortal said:
Thanks for the great write-up and videos. I really hope this The Nutty Professor release opens the floodgates on Jerry's movies being put out on Blu-ray. His work, both with Dean Martin and afterwards, really does deserve the full Blu treatment.
Koroush,

Did talk to a Warner rep about this.

Nothing in the works right now. The possibility exists, but all pending on sales
of this particular release.
 

Persianimmortal

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Thanks Ron, and that's actually a positive thing. I think Warner has done a good job with this release, providing a more lavish boxed set for people who are into extras, and a barebones cheap release of just the movie, out in September, for those who aren't. And by all accounts it's a good transfer. We can't ask for more than that. Now it's up to Jerry Lewis fans to buy this movie and prove that there's a market for his material on Blu.
 

Dr Griffin

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Mr. Lewis looks fantastic. What a great event. Thanks for the coverage. I've also been a fan and supporter of Mr. Lewis for many, many years, even going to see his later films (Hardly Working / Cracking Up) in the theater. I've got Cracking Up on Warner MOD. I know he's proud and excited about the new box set.
 

Charles Smith

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When I saw this new thread yesterday and quickly skimmed the first post, I was soooooo envious.

And now that I've read it more thoroughly and watched the videos, I am sooooooo envious!!! :)

I can't say enough about how wonderful this box set is. But Ron says it perfectly: "The Paramount licensing deal with Warner Bros. has proven to be a huge benefit for collector's everywhere when treated with such a wonderful Collector's Edition as this one. No cheap trinkets. No box of junk. Simply one of the greatest comedies ever made and a wealth of intelligent material geared towards those of us that love Jerry Lewis and his work. This will probably be one of the best releases of the year."

PLEASE... let this thing be one of the best-SELLING releases of the year, and let there be many more like it.

Jerry Lewis looks and sounds like a million dollars, as does the film which couldn't possibly have looked better in 1963. This is a treasure.
 

Reed Grele

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Ron,

Was that you shooting the video? Did you get to ask Jerry any questions? What other events took place that night, and were you able to participate?

Sounds like you had a wonderful time with your idol. I'd like to have been a fly on the wall as well. :)
 

TonyD

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I was a teen in the 70's growing up in Philadelphia.
Before I was an outside kid I spent saturday afternoons watching horror and monster movies on the local UHF channels.

Sunday was Jerry Lewis day.

For a good portion of that decade it seemed like his movies were always on Sunday afternoons.
I watched them all.

He is certainly an idol of mine too and there is probably 2 people I would want to meet
Pete Townshend and Jerry Lewis.

It's just nuts that his movies aren't on blu or even just dvd.
 

Ronald Epstein

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Was that you shooting the video? Did you get to ask Jerry any questions? What other events took place that night, and were you able to participate?
That is my video. The press event lasted about 40 minutes. I asked
Jerry where he got the idea for his Jekyll and Hyde comedy.

Other events that took place that night? There was a cocktail party afterwards
with more celebrities, but I left after the press event since I had to get back to
New Jersey.
 

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I would have liked that the 2 extra movies in this set were in high definition. It would seem that a set like this would be targeting Lewis fans, and would already have these movies on DVD.
 

Jacksmyname

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Thanks for a wonderful review, Ron. I join the ranks of the envious.
I'm also a big fan of Mr. Lewis since I was a kid, and The Nutty Professor is one of my favorites. I make no secret that I'm also a fan of the big box sets, and I'm really looking forward to receiving my copy of this one.
 

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All very nice. Jerry seemed quite together, much more so than a live nightclub performance of his that was shown on PBS (I think) a year or so ago. While he was always into technology, I was surprised that he was well aware of "You Tube" and what Blu-ray is and the significance of all that was included in the Blu-ray box.

And while he did say "Huhh?" a few times, he does not appear to have substantial hearing loss. People with severe hearing loss tend to speak very loudly and he wasn't doing that even though Lewis always did tend to yell when he did his "shtick".

In the past, his ego seemed to dominate. He seems to have mellowed and it's for the better.

Hope this set does well. In the past, I think Lewis seemed hurt by the critical drubbing he tended to receive in the United States. It would be nice to see him better recognized while he's still alive and can appreciate it. Don't know if this box set will be available in France, but if it is, it should sell like hotcakes.
 

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Just got this tonight and have only watched the feature. WOW. The transfer knocked my socks off. I LOVE that they left in the film grain, because that makes it so much more genuine a presentation. I'll dive into the extras later.
 

PaulDA

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One of my all-time favourite films. I grew up watching Jerry Lewis movies with my dad on TV (I have an uncle who can do a mean Lewis impersonation) and while I might not have seen every single one of them, I've seen most of them. Got this box as a Father's Day present from my kids (by way of my suggesting it to my wife as something they could get for me ;) ). Looking forward to watching this with them, like I used to watch with my dad.

Very envious of your day in his presence. And I hope this leads to a boxed set of at least some of his films (solo and with Martin) in the manner of some of the Hitchcock sets--preferably on BD, but I'd settle for well-made DVDs rather than nothing at all.
 

Gary16

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PaulDA said:
One of my all-time favourite films. I grew up watching Jerry Lewis movies with my dad on TV (I have an uncle who can do a mean Lewis impersonation) and while I might not have seen every single one of them, I've seen most of them. Got this box as a Father's Day present from my kids (by way of my suggesting it to my wife as something they could get for me ;) ). Looking forward to watching this with them, like I used to watch with my dad.

Very envious of your day in his presence. And I hope this leads to a boxed set of at least some of his films (solo and with Martin) in the manner of some of the Hitchcock sets--preferably on BD, but I'd settle for well-made DVDs rather than nothing at all.
Almost all of his movies with and without Dean have been out in boxed sets but may now be out of print since I see them asking very high prices on Amazon.
 

Charles Smith

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Gary16 said:
Almost all of his movies with and without Dean have been out in boxed sets but may now be out of print since I see them asking very high prices on Amazon.
The out-of-print status on all of these is unconscionable.
 

phillyrobt

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Not to hype FYE but Money From Home, the Delicate Delinquent and the Disorderly Orderly to name 3 should easily be found in the Classic Conedy section or ordered ....
 

bruceames

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Wow, did not realize his films on DVD are OOP. Fortunately I have the 10 film set, and I will go ahead and buy this set (my Costco has it for $32.95) since it will probably go OOP as well.
 

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