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Blu-ray Review The Sunshine Boys Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Richard Gallagher, Jun 7, 2015.

  1. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

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    XenForo Template The Sunshine Boys Blu-ray Review

     

    The Sunshine Boys, a very funny comedy based upon the Broadway play of the same name by Neil Simon, is being released by Warner Archive with a nearly stellar Blu-ray transfer.


    Cover Art


    Studio: MGM

    Distributed By: Warner Archive

    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

    Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA

    Subtitles: English SDH

    Rating: PG

    Run Time: 1 Hr. 51 Min.

    Package Includes: Blu-ray

    Standard Blu-ray Case

    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

    Region: A

    Release Date: 06/16/2015

    MSRP: $21.99




    The Production Rating: 4.5/5

    When The Sunshine Boys was released in 1975, film critic Roger Ebert had an opportunity to observe co-stars Walter Matthau and George Burns having a conversation in Burns' hotel suite.

     

    "I heard there's a book out that says Hugh Hefner has had two thousand women in twenty years," Matthau said.

     

    "Two thousand?" said Burns.

     

    "That's right."

     

    "That works out to one thousand girls every ten years."

     

    "That's right."

     

    "A hundred girls a year. A different girl every three or four nights." He studied his cigar.

     

    "Hefner has to be a very unhappy man," Matthau said.

     

    "That's easy, that many girls," Burns said. "It's easy to do with two thousand different girls. What's hard is two thousand times with your wife."

     

    The conversations between once-famous vaudeville comedians Willie Clark (Matthau) and Al Lewis (Burns) are frequently funny but not nearly as friendly as the one which Ebert transcribed in Burns' hotel suite. Willie is a cantankerous, dyspeptic old man who despises Al for retiring 11 years earlier, thereby breaking up their act after 47 years. For his part, Al doesn't hate Willie - he just can't stand him.

     

    Al occasionally appears to be getting senile, but he leads a pleasant, quiet life in New Jersey with his daughter and grandchildren. Willie, on the other hand, still considers himself a working show business professional, although the only auditions his agent-nephew Ben (Richard Benjamin) can get for him are for television commercials. Willie invariably fails to get hired because of his penchant for irritating directors and forgetting his lines. For example, he auditions for a potato chip commercial but is rejected because he refuses to correctly pronounce the brand name. He always blames Ben for his failures.

     

    However, one day Ben gets a phone call from ABC, which is planning a television special about the history of comedy, and they want Lewis & Clark - who in their heyday were known as "The Sunshine Boys" - to reunite and perform their most famous vaudeville sketch on the program. The problem for Ben is that Willie refuses to work with Al, and Al is not thrilled about the prospect of getting together with Willie. Ben finally persuades them to give it a try, and then the real fireworks begin.

     

    The Sunshine Boys would have worked even if there were fewer laughs in Neil Simon's screenplay, because Matthau and Burns (who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor) play their roles brilliantly. Matthau was 24 years younger than Burns, but as New York Times film critic Vincent Canby put it, "Mr. Matthau is so good playing old men, we may never know when he finally becomes one." Burns, who excelled at playing the straight man opposite his wife Gracie Allen, deserved his Academy Award with his low key, subtle digs in response to Willie's frequent outbursts. Ironically, the part of Al was originally given to Burns' close friend, Jack Benny, who withdrew when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

     

    Richard Benjamin does a fine job as the frequently and justifiably exasperated nephew. Lee Meredith humorously plays a sexy nurse during the vaudeville routine, a performance which is reminiscent of her memorable role as Ulla in The Producers. Howard Hesseman appears as a television commercial director, and there are cameo appearances by Phyllis Diller and Steve Allen. The film benefits from fine direction by Herbert Ross. Viewers may have trouble recognizing F. Murray Abraham as an auto mechanic early in the film.



    Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: NA

    The 1080p video is encoded with the AVC codec and is framed at 1.85:1. The opening credits include fascinating black & white snippets of scenes of vintage vaudeville performances. The picture quality is excellent, the only exception being the opening scene of Willie walking down Broadway in which the contrast is boosted excessively. Thankfully, the rest of the film is just fine. The cinematography by David M. Walsh is superb, and the location filming in New York City is exquisite. Viewers who are familiar with Manhattan will want to freeze-frame many of the shots and savor the sights as they appeared 40 years ago.

     

    Readers are encouraged to check out the comments about this presentation of The Sunshine Boys by our resident expert, Robert A. Harris:

     

    A few words about...™ The Sunshine Boys -- in Blu-ray



    Audio Rating: 4.5/5

    The DTS HD-MA 2.0 mono audio is flawless. Every word of Neil Simon's dialogue is clear and understandable, and when Walter Matthau goes into one of his rants the viewer sits up and takes notice! There is no musical soundtrack to speak of, although instrumental versions of the song "Make 'Em Laugh" is played over the opening and closing credits, as well as during the rehearsal for the television special.

     

    English SDH subtitles are available.



    Special Features Rating: 3.5/5

    The extras on this Blu-ray disc include a commentary track by Richard Benjamin, which apparently was recorded around the time that he directed the remake of The Goodbye Girl. He includes some fascinating tidbits, including the fact that George Burns memorized all of his dialogue before the first rehearsal because he figured that would lessen the chances that he would be fired!

     

    A make-up test of Walter Matthau and Jack Benny also is included. It appears that Benny already was feeling the effects of his illness at that point, but he and Matthau were certainly having a good time. Unfortunately there is no sound, so if there are any lip readers who see this review, please tell us what they are laughing about.

     

    Phil Silvers was considered for the role of Willie, and we see two audition takes in which he says nothing but is trying to straighten up the apartment. Silvers was a fine comedian but it is difficult to imagine that he could have topped Walter Matthau's performance.

     

    "The Lion Roars Again" is a 1975 promotional film about MGM's film releases that year, including Logan's Run, The Wind and the Lion, and of course The Sunshine Boys. It is framed at 1.33:1 and has a running time of just under 17 minutes.



    Overall Rating: 4.5/5

     

    The Sunshine Boys is a tour-de-force for both Walter Matthau and George Burns, and is a must-see for their fans and fans of screenwriter Neil Simon. This MGM production is another outstanding entry in the library of Warner Archive Blu-ray discs. It can be ordered through the Warner Archive website.


    Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher


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    KPmusmag and Steve...O like this.
  2. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Richard,


    Thank you so very, very much for this review.


    The Sunshine Boys rates as one of my 5 top comedies of all time.


    I had the original movie poster hanging on my wall as a teenager (along with more action-orientated film posters). I have seen this film so many times that I can almost recite the entire film's dialogue from beginning to end.


    You hit the nail on the head why this film works so well -- it is the performances by Matthau and Burns. It is just a delight to see these two men perform together onscreen. I also think Richard Benjamin fits into the film equally as well.


    Never thought this film would ever make it to Blu-ray. I know there are some who would rather see other Neil Simon fare on Blu-ray first, but their time will come. At least Warner made the decision to go with something a little less popular but perhaps a little more significant.


    Another interesting cameo you forgot to mention was Fritz Feld, who appeared in many 60s classics shows (including Lost in Space), who can be seen at the beginning of the film munching on "FRUMPIES" Potato Chips.


    I will be awaiting my copy to arrive and give it an immediate watch.
     
    Reed Grele and Richard Gallagher like this.
  3. bryan4999

    bryan4999 Supporting Actor

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    I can't believe how film-like the image is. I had a great time watching this.
     
  4. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Bryan,


    Just watched THE SUNSHINE BOYS today on my projection screen.


    Your comment is spot-on. It has that classic film-like image that you don't see in many films.


    Looks like something from the 70s era. Full of grain. Not a bad thing.


    This Blu-ray looks sensational
     
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  5. Nick*Z

    Nick*Z Screenwriter

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    Yes, with the exception on one brief exterior insert right after the opening credits, this one gets very high marks for replicating the look of vintage 70's film stock on a projector set up. Absolutely exceptional work and another WB Archive title to add to my growing roster of top notch efforts. Wish that we would see more and even deeper catalog coming from the Archive - a lot to cherish from the WB/MGM/RKO catalog. Would love more 30s to early 80s stuff coming down their pipeline. I could start a list, but won't. At least, not here. Clearly those responsible for the WB Archive are in love, not only with the art of movie-making but the Blu-ray format as the most viable arbitrator to celebrate great 'old' movies. Bravo, doesn't begin to describe my elation and admiration.
     

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