Heaven Can Wait (1978) – Blu-ray Review

3.5 Stars Remake of screwball fantasy debuts on Blu
Heaven Can Wait Screenshot

One of the defining stars of the American New Wave (or “New Hollywood”) was the younger brother of actress Shirley MacLaine, Warren Beatty. Following the success of Bonnie and Clyde (1967) – which he starred and produced – Beatty kept a careful and steady course, appearing in a handful of movies that have garnered greater recognition over the years, such as The Parallax View (1974), The Fortune (1975) and Shampoo (also 1975). With each movie putting him in greater control, Beatty took the leap into the director’s chair – as well as acting, writing and producing – with his next project, Heaven Can Wait. Paramount released the movie in DVD in the early days of the format, but the studio has finally given the film its belated Blu-ray debut.

Heaven Can Wait (1978)
Released: 28 Jun 1978
Rated: PG
Runtime: 101 min
Director: Warren Beatty, Buck Henry
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
Cast: Warren Beatty, James Mason, Julie Christie
Writer(s): Elaine May, Warren Beatty, Harry Segall
Plot: A Los Angeles Rams quarterback, accidentally taken away from his body by an overanxious angel before he was meant to die, returns to life in the body of a recently murdered millionaire.
IMDB rating: 6.9
MetaScore: 72

Disc Information
Studio: Paramount
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 2.0 DD, French 2.0 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
Rating: PG
Run Time: 1 Hr. 41 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: Blue keep case with slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 11/30/2021
MSRP: $17.99

The Production: 4/5

Los Angeles Rams backup quarterback Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty) is looking to help lead his team to the Super Bowl, but the fates have other plans. Just before he’s to start a game for the Rams, he’s taken to Heaven before his time by an overeager escort (Buck Henry). When Mr. Jordan (James Mason) discovers the error, he arranges to have Joe returned to Earth, but his body has been cremated, forcing a pulling of strings and finding a new host for Joe in the form of millionaire industrialist Leo Farnsworth. Thus begins a series of events that finds Joe trying to fulfill his Super Bowl dream while also finding love in the form of Betty Logan (Julie Christie), who once “hated” him in the past.

A remake and reworking of the classic Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), Heaven Can Wait is a fun throwback to the glossy screwball comedies of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Working from Harry Segall’s original framework, Warren Beatty and Elaine May updated the story and made football the sport of the main character – a necessary change when Beatty failed to convince Muhammad Ali to come aboard to play the boxer taken before his time – all while making feel both fresh and old fashioned at the same time. Making his directorial debut as well – along with Buck Henry as co-director – Beatty maintains a lighthearted air that has an infectious charm prevalent throughout. Best of all, Beatty never once makes this feel like a vanity project (he also produced in addition to writing, directing and starring) as he gives plenty of room for his co-stars to shine. In short, Heaven Can Wait should be remembered as a delightful fantasy that’s a refreshing and welcome tonic to the cynical decade of the 1970’s.

Proving his versatility in front of and behind the camera, Warren Beatty earned an Oscar nomination (one of four he would earn for this movie alone) for one of his best performances as Joe Pendleton; though a bit out of element here amongst the cast, Julie Christie still does a solid job as Betty Logan. Jack Warden also earned an Oscar nod for his likeable performance as Rams trainer Max Corkle; James Mason and Buck Henry are spot on as – respectively – the heavenly head Mr. Jordan and the overzealous escort. Earning the third Oscar nod for acting for this movie – and the second of her career – Dyan Cannon has a hilarious turn as the scheming wife of Farnsworth while Charles Grodin equally provides humor as the personal assistant she’s involved with. Rounding out the cast are Vincent Gardenia as the police detective, Dolph Sweet as the Rams head coach, R.G. Armstrong as the team’s general manager, John Randolph as the Rams owner bought out by Joe/Farnsworth, Joseph Maher, Hamilton Camp and Arthur Malet as servants and butlers of the Farnsworth mansion, Stephanie Faracy and Jeannine Linero as the maids of the Farnsworth mansion and future game show host Peter Tomarken as a reporter; football players Jerry Scanlan, Jim Boeke, Les Josephson, Jack T. Snow, Deacon Jones and Charley Cowan have cameo appearances while Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis can be heard giving the Super Bowl commentary of the game in the climax.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film is presented in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio, taken from a brand new HD transfer from the original negative for this release. Film grain, fine details and color palette are all faithfully represented, giving full justice to William A. Fraker’s Oscar-nominated cinematography. There’s little to no instances of issues like scratches, tears, dirt or dust present here, which means that this release is likely the best the movie will ever look on home video, easily surpassing the previous DVD release.

Audio: 5/5

There are four options for this release: a 2.0 Dolby TrueHD track and three Dolby Digital mono tracks in French, German and Spanish. Dialogue is strong and clear, with sound effects and Dave Grusin’s brief yet jaunty Oscar-nominated score also given faithful representations as well. There’s minimal to no instances of issues like crackling, popping, hissing or distortion present, making this release another improvement over the previous DVD release.

Special Features: 0/5

There are no special features on this release; not even the original theatrical trailer was carried over from the previous DVD release of the movie.

Overall: 3.5/5

A very pleasing mix of fantasy, comedy and romance, Heaven Can Wait – no relation to the 1943 Ernst Lubtisch movie other than the title – is an affectionate nod to the classic that it was made from while maintaining a modern day feel. Paramount should absolutely be commended for bringing the movie out on Blu-ray with a terrific HD transfer of the movie. Don’t let this release’s lack of special features stop you from upgrading from the DVD or getting acquainted with the movie for the first time.

Mychal has been on the Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2018, with reviews numbering close to 300. During this time, he has also been working as an assistant manager at The Cotton Patch – his family’s fabric and quilting supplies business in Keizer, Oregon. When not working at reviewing movies or working at the family business, he enjoys exploring the Oregon Coast, playing video games and watching baseball in addition to his expansive collection of movies on DVD, Blu-ray and UHD, totalling over 3,000 movies.

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Alan Tully

Senior HTF Member
Feb 19, 2008
Real Name
Yes, a really sweet film, & you can't say that about a lot of seventies movies. I now have the Blu-ray & will watch it over the holidays (although I'm retired, so every week is a holiday :)).


His Own Fool
Senior HTF Member
Aug 18, 2001
The BK
Real Name
I'm very late to this, but FWIW, if anyone wants both the BD *and* the 4K digital on iTunes, the BD's digital copy should very likely be redeemable at iTunes for their usual free 4K upgrade.

And during this BF sale, DeepDiscount currently has this (plus Warren Beatty's Reds BD, FWTW) on sale at ~$10, and there's a 15%-off coupon to boot. I just finally ordered both BDs myself.

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